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Alexander and Eric

This is home, and you'll never have to leave.

As soon as they hung up the phone, Madlyn and Henry knew that their whole lives were about to change.

As medical foster parents, they were aware of the high need in the system. They had spent months preparing for it. But despite that readiness, the reality still washed over them the moment they heard about the medically fragile boy who needed a new home.

This wasn’t just some child somewhere. This was Eric, a sweet 9-year-old weighing only 48 lbs., who had spent his entire life in the system. Born severely prematurely, Eric struggled to survive a myriad of prenatal challenges due to substance abuse by his birth mother.  

He has profound medical complexities as a result, including obstructive hydrocephalus, spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, neuromuscular scoliosis, epilepsy, cortical blindness, and profound cognitive developmental delay. He entered foster care not long after and stayed in the system for nearly a decade.

His current foster home wasn’t a good fit, and if Madlyn and Henry agreed to take him, it would be his fourth placement in nine years. 

They met and visited with him a few times, hearts softening at his tiny frame and gentle disposition. Madlyn and Henry glanced at each other, communicating a thousand words and feelings in a single glance. Eric was theirs.

“When he got to our house, we got him situated in his room, and he was just laying there, crying,” Madlyn told us, her own eyes welling up. “I took his hand and cried along with him, saying, ‘This is home, and you’ll never have to leave.’”

Madlyn could proudly stand behind that statement because she’d stood behind it before. Before marrying Henry, she was the adoptive parent of six children and foster parent to several more. Her entire life had been dedicated to providing a loving home for kids who needed it most – she was interviewed for her impact by World News, TIME and Life magazine, and Oprah herself – yet she never pressured Henry to join her in doing the same.

Madlyn and Henry met when she was 14, but her parents told her she wasn’t allowed to date for another two years. She thought he was charming, handsome, and sweet, and he thought she was beautiful, kind, and compassionate. But time was not on their side. Henry graduated and joined the Navy, and before he reported for duty, he asked her to marry him. 

“I said, ‘Maybe when I’m older,’” she told us, laughing. She didn’t realize it would be almost 30 years before they reunited.

Henry served for 20 years in the Navy and retired as a Chief Petty Officer. (He then went on to work for a water company for another 20 years before officially hanging up his hat as a double retiree.)

When he and Madlyn reconnected, he knew of her adopted children and heart for youth in foster care. But she didn’t want to pressure him to be part of that journey with her, so for nearly five years, she stayed silent on fostering or adopting any other children.

Then, one day, Henry approached her. “I think you’re still supposed to do this,” he said. “I think we should consider fostering and adopting.”

Eric came home in 2017, and Alexander followed not long after.

“We had fostered another boy between Eric and Alexander,” they explained. “But he was successfully reunited with his mom. We got a call pretty quickly asking us if we could foster a brother and sister, but we didn’t have enough room for both.”

Eric was 13 years old, and because of strict rules about age and room sharing, they were not able to take both Alexander and his sister. It was heartwrenching. 

They drove to the hospital to meet him, falling in love just as they had with Eric. But their hearts broke for his sister, and Madlyn still carries the weight of that grief today. There just wasn’t any way around it.

Miraculously, they both had an appointment for imaging at the hospital on the same day. They passed each other in the hallway, and though Alexander is blind, Madlyn noticed that he was visibly excited, like he could sense that his sister was nearby. 

The nurses brought them closer together and they held hands, leaving not a dry eye in the room. 

Devastatingly, Alexander’s sister passed away right before Christmas. That meeting at the hospital was the last time they were together. 

“I didn’t even know how to tell him,” Madlyn said with a lump in her throat. “I walked into his room and said, ‘Alexander, your sister gained her wings. She’s in heaven now.’ And he just paused for a moment and then pointed his finger up at the sky.”

Their love for each other transcended any delay or disability. They loved each other, fully. And Alexander felt the loss, fully.

With two medically-fragile boys in the home, Madlyn and Henry stayed true to their word. They formally adopted Eric on November 22, 2019 and Alexander on January 13, 2022. 

When we asked them to share more about their sons, Madlyn and Henry’s faces lit up.

Eric is the rock ‘n roll boy. He loves to play around and joke, and he’s extremely compassionate. When they first met him, they were told Eric could not bond with others and didn’t like to be touched. When those same people saw Eric after he had been adopted by Madlyn and Henry, they were blown away. “They kept telling us how amazing he looked,” Madlyn said.

As for Alexander, he’s gentle, sweet, and calm. Because of his genetics, he sleeps a lot more than Eric and is very laid back.

When he first arrived, they noticed he seemed more demure and solemn. Not long after, he had an infusion at the hospital and came home a completely different kid. 

“We had never seen him laugh or smile so much,” Madlyn explained. “And we realized he must have had some pain, but because he’s nonverbal, he couldn’t tell anyone. After that infusion, he was so different and so much happier.”

The family lives in Florida and experiences severe weather and hurricanes. That’s a problem in any situation, but it’s further complicated when you have two teenage boys who require electricity to refrigerate critical medications and power life-saving devices. They can’t afford to lose power, even for a few minutes. 

Thanks to the generous contributions of our donors, we were able to fully fund the cost of a Generac home generator to provide safety and peace of mind for a total impact of $19,360.

“It will help us so much, you have no idea,” Madlyn said. “We are so grateful for you all and this generous gift that will impact our family. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!”

Before we hung up, we asked Madlyn and Henry what advice they would give to others who might be considering fostering or adopting. 

“A lot of retirees finish their careers and still have a lot more they want to do,” Henry explained. “This is a great way to use that time and give it back to those who need it the most. It gives you purpose and brings a lot of joy.”

As for Madlyn and her lifelong journey of nurturing and caring for others, she just smiled and said, “If it’s been on your heart and you have love and space in your home, you can do it. Answer that call in your heart. It’s a journey that’s so challenging, but so rewarding. It will change your life.”

This is home, and you’ll never have to leave.

At Chive Charities, looking out for those who need it most is the foundation of all we do. Become a member today and donate $10/month to help us change more lives. They need you, and we do, too. DONATE HERE.

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