Many people can identify with the beloved loved Christmas song, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.” For 13-year-old Lisa, her one wish has finally come true. She now has a place to call home.
Lisa, who had been in and out of the foster care system for most of her life, was among 109 families participating in National Adoption Day ceremonies on Nov. 17 at the state Capitol.
Doug and Nancy Gudeman of Alta are now enjoying the honor of being called Mom and Dad by the youngster they thought they would never see again.
The Gudemans are the maternal grandparents of Lisa’s half brother, Micheal. When the relationship between Lisa’s father and Micheal’s mother dissolved seven years ago, Lisa became an only child without a stable family or home.
“This is the first Christmas that I have a family that really cares about me,” said Lisa as tears spilled from her blue eyes.
“I was about 6 when my biological dad, James, told me to pack a suitcase,” she recalled. “I didn’t know why, but I packed it and set it by my dresser. A few days later I found out. I cried when they (CPS and a Sacramento sheriff’s deputy) took me to the receiving home.”
The next time she was taken into protective custody, Lisa only had the clothes on her back.
“I had to borrow a pair of pajamas to sleep in that night.” she said of the ordeal. “I thought my life was going to end. It seemed that no one cared.”
But someone did care. Actually it was someone who had known Lisa most of her life and had already gotten the ball rolling in case the time ever came they could step in as her guardians.
Doug and Nancy started attending the nine-week course sponsored by Placer Kids in Auburn.
When Nancy learned that Lisa had been in a foster home she immediately called the child’s social worker. The response was far from what they had expected.
“Usually the process is long. We didn’t really know if it would be possible,” Doug explained. “They asked if we wanted to see her and if it worked out, would we be ready and willing to take her.”
Lisa pipes in, “That was two years ago on my birthday. I was totally shocked. I had no idea they would be coming to see me and when I saw them the tears just ran down my face.”
Nancy, whose two children are now adults, adds, “It was a major adjustment. I went from being a grandma, back to being a mom. I quickly realized the need to quit my job and stay at home. Lisa, at that point, had so much need after being bounced from one home to another.”
“There was no question in our minds,” said Doug who drives for Nella Oil. “I just put it at God’s feet, that if her real father can’t or won’t take care of her, then I would. Now we are a real family. Like it says in the Bible, ‘A cord of three strands cannot be broken.’”
For Doug the most memorable moment of the past year was when Lisa left a note for him on the wipe off board in the kitchen and the word DAD was at the top.
“It was cool! We have signed the final papers and I have full responsibility,” Doug explained, adding he has no children of his own. “I feel just like a biological father. I worry about her and am concerned about influences on her life. The most important thing is that she will always have a home and people who care about her.”
One year ago the social worker asked Lisa if she wanted to seek guardianship or adoption.
“I really had to think about that,” said Lisa, ” but I realized that I am happy where I am. I feel secure so I said I would like adoption please.”
While many folks may be listening to “Silver Bells” or “Dreaming of a White Christmas,” the Gudemans believe, “For the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home.”
12/20/07 – by Marci Seither, Colfax Record correspondent