When the Campseys first met their little angels, Emerie and Levy (now 4 and 3 years old), neither child could talk, neither could run around and play like other children their age because they were so physically weak, and both were facing significant developmental delays. They had spent a month in foster care and had been moved around to many different homes already, but when they finally found the love that they’d been missing–it made all the difference in the world. And they found that love in the home of adoptive parents Jenah and Jacob Campsey. Jacob is a Devine native, and now lives with his wife Jenah, teaching and coaching in Rockdale, Texas.
Their story will bring you to tears in the beginning, but put a big smile on your face before you finish. We hope that by sharing this story, we can show the miracle of what a loving home has done for these two children, and what a loving home can do for so many other beautiful foster children, just like Emerie and Levy, who have faced such unimaginable, scary, and difficult circumstances in their lives. After just a few months of love and care, both children are thriving…. jumping and playing and skipping and running in a way that amazes everyone.
“I remember the day the phone rang like it was yesterday. I ran out of my classroom and told my teaching partner the adoption agency was calling,” said mom Jenah Campsey. “I found the closest pen and paper and began taking notes: 1.5 year old boy, non-verbal and not walking, 2.5 year old girl, non-verbal, described as ‘feral’, both drink from a bottle, severe developmental delays, multiple failed placements, neither knew their names, and the list went on and on….I wasn’t sure if we could handle this, but I decided to call my husband. He immediately said, “Well let’s just meet them.”
The Campseys scheduled a visit at the park.
“When they arrived at the park, we saw everything our agency described. I was scared to death the entire time and wondered if this would really work. I wondered if we would be enough for them. There is something about seeing children who come from an extreme situation that changes you forever…..to know and truly realize that these kinds of things really happen. Jacob, not knowing the severity of the delays said, ‘Jenah, if we don’t say yes to them, then why are we even doing this?’ I looked at him and said you are exactly right. I’m calling our agency right now and telling them we’d like the kids to move in with us.”
On April 3, 2018 little Emerie and Levy joined their home.
“I remember the day like it was yesterday when they were dropped off at our home. I remember how they both looked all around staring at the walls and floor. I remember watching them both touch everything like they had never seen some of those things before….”
“Neither one of us knew how to parent, and here are these 1 and 2-year-old children who had never been cared for in their life, and they were depending on us. We had to find the balance of breaking habits, creating new habits, getting them into a routine, teaching them, all while trying to create a bond and relationship with them. The first several weeks were about survival,” Jacob adds.”As the hours turned to days and days turned into weeks, we began to learn from each other. Just as anything new does, things got easier. Time was our biggest friend. We began to see Emerie and Levy flourishing.”
“Jenah has always said love makes a family, and it is so true,” Jacob adds, “It was so amazing to see the kids really start to count on us, love us, and need us.”
“To see children with that much of a delay in every area, when we first met them it was just overwhelming,” Jenah said, but to see and watch them overcome it all it just astounding.
“I remember the first time I took them to the doctor, within 3 days of them being placed with us, and I just asked her ‘Do you think they are going to be okay?’ She looked at me and in the calmest voice, she said ‘Yes. These children will thrive in a loving environment. Yes they have delays today, but they won’t be there forever. So we just poured everything we had into loving them and getting the therapy that they needed.”
“Even being a teacher, I did not truly understand that developmental delays are not always a permanent thing,” Jenah said.
Emerie was completely non-verbal and thought to have severe developmental delays, “but within 10 months she made such great strides, you could tell there wasn’t really a delay there.”
“She didn’t even know her name when she came to us at two and a half years old,” Jenah said. “Now here she is speaking in complete sentences, and she is completely caught up.”
“She is 4 years old, and that girl can read!” mom adds proudly, “She is reading well above-average, on a 1st grade reading level….She also came to us not being able to run five steps without falling flat on her face. Now she loves to wrestle with her daddy and run around outside, and she plays pretend.”
One of Jenah’s most precious memories was watching Emerie learn how to trust and love Jacob.
“When she came to us, Emerie was terrified of all men to the point that she would scream and cry whenever Jacob walked into the room. That was one of the hardest things. But then, one day, it was like a light switch just went off. When that light switch went off—when he became daddy….it was really a special moment. Hearing that pure excitement in her voice when he walks in the room now, and she screams ‘Dadddddy!’ it is just so beautiful.”
One of the most special moments with baby brother, Levy, was when he took his first steps. That’s a special landmark for any family, but for the Campseys, it was another huge obstacle overcome.
“Levy had actually been placed in the infant room at daycare because when he came to us at one and a half years old, he couldn’t even crawl….He couldn’t even hold his head up to crawl. He was so weak, that he couldn’t even stand for us to pull his pants on. So when he took his first steps, it was such a weight lifted off our shoulders. It was so good see.”
“He came to us in April and it was July that he started walking, about four months time. And he went straight from walking to running!” she adds.
So many of the physical, emotional, and developmental delays seemed so challenging, but these two special angels quickly rose above all expectations.
“Now Levy also knows most of the alphabet, and he can count to twenty, too,” mom adds with a well-deserved smile.
After looking into their eyes, and knowing the love of two children who were once and who could have easily always been strangers, Jenah explains how much her perspective has changed.
“I hate to even say it, but when we started out, we like most people, wanted a child or children who were 0-5 years old. Once children get to 10, it’s very hard for them to find a home. Now I can look at a 10 year old child in foster care, and see just how amazing she is. I don’t know why so many of us miss out on so many really awesome kids by limiting our adoption search to ages 0-5. That’s one of the many ways my perspective has changed so much.”
“When I look at a photo of a child for adoption now, I just see a kid that is so resilient with all they have been through, and that they just need someone to love them and believe in them. I know now how much trauma truly affects the brain, and that it can be overcome.”
“I have seen it with Emerie and Levy. Levy went from being withdrawn, scared of everyone, unable to crawl– to being a happy kid who runs to the door to greet you. Emerie came to us not being able to talk, or even say her name, and now she is speaking in complete sentences and reading and on an above average reading level. She went from being terrified of all men to being the biggest daddy’s girl there is.”
“I have seen it happen, and it has been such a rewarding experience. I would never consider Emerie or Levy lucky, with all that they have been through, but I consider me and Jacob very lucky, for getting to love them.”
The Campseys fostered Emerie and Levy for a year and half before they were able to make it permanent, and now they are free to just be kids! No more CPS visits or court dates….just lots of love and play dates.
“There were a lot of good days and some bad days, but their love for us and ours for them was undeniable. The kids closed a lot of gaps with a lot of hard work from themselves, us, and our village of people who have stood beside us in this journey,” the Campseys said.
It was December 5, 2019, when Emerie and Levy walked into the courtroom with their foster parents and officially became Campseys.
“It was truly the greatest day of our lives,” the Campseys said. “The kids are as proud of it as we are. It has been a ride with many ups and downs but far more ups. We wouldn’t trade this journey for the world. And even though we have never met their biological parents they hold a special piece of our hearts. We love them and pray for them daily. They are who made us parents. The privilege of raising them is not lost on us. We know this didn’t come without a loss of their biological family.”
After seeing and knowing the love of these two children, who spent 647 days in foster care, it’s hard not to think about all of the 20,000+ children who are still in foster care right now, just waiting for a family.
“We all have a place in caring for our children in care of the State. If you can’t adopt: foster. If you can’t foster: sponsor. If you can’t sponsor: volunteer. If you can’t volunteer: donate. If you can’t donate: educate,” the Campseys said.”There is never a good time to do it. We could have made a thousand excuses as to why we didn’t want to do foster care, but I promise you if you choose to, you will be blessed. We are not heroes, we are just two average people who felt the call to help.”
When it comes to advice, Jenah encourages others to do your research when picking out an adoption agency.
“There are good ones, and there are bad ones, but it’s important to have an agency, because they will help advocate for you.”
She also assures those who have heard the myths about adoption costing a fortune—that “Our adoption did not cost us anything. We contacted an agency (A World For Children) who contracts with CPS, and CPS took care of all the attorneys fees, and even sends subsidies to help with the various costs of caring for the kids. They will receive medical coverage until they are 18, and free college tuition as well.”