A definition of family is love

Published 1:24 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Louise Haskins had a dream — realized Sunday with her family at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.

For Haskins, family isn’t restricted by blood or marriage. Family includes her biological family, of course, but also a host of foster children, a son, Randy, for whom she and her husband have full custody, her church family at Mt. Sinai and most recently, two little girls who she and James adopted a year ago — as well as their birth mother and extended family. 

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That wide-ranging and diverse family came together Sunday, which marked a year since the adoption of Delanii, 9, and Levyn Clarke-Haskins, 8, became final. They also celebrate the girls’ birthdays, which fall within a week of each other in December. 

Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Secretary Deloise Gwaltney told the congregation that when Delanii and Levyn first came to the church they were two shy and quiet girls in the back of the sanctuary.

Over the past few years, the church has seen the girls grow mentally, spiritually and physically, said Gwaltney. The girls have been baptized, serve as junior missionaries and regularly go the local nursing home to sing to residents, she said. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Louise and James Haskins had served as foster parents to more than 40 children for about 25 years, and four years ago, took Delanii and Levyn in their home. 

The girls joined Randy Seaborne, 14,who the Haskins received as a days-old infant and with whom they now have full custody. The Haskins also have a grown biological son, Shawn. 

“I didn’t want to see them separated,” said Haskins of the two little girls.

The Haskins, whom the girls call “grandma” and “paw-paw,” made sure they stayed in contact with their birth mother, Kadie Bryant. 

The Haskins worked with Bryant to see if she could one day regain custody, but that wasn’t possible. So when the girls became available for adoption, the Haskins jumped on it — and the process was final a year ago this month. 

“I just got attached to them,” said Louise. 

The Haskins’ have also formed a relationship with Randy’s mother, Lolesia Bowser, who was also at the celebration Sunday. 

The Haskins’ may be the first black family in Isle of Wight County to adopt two white children, according Rachel Schultz, a family services specialist with Isle of Wight County Social Services. 

When seeking out foster parents, Social Services looks for individuals willing to take children of any race, age, religion, disability or any other variable into their homes. 

“We ask them to love the child as if their own,” said Schultz.

The agency also promotes visitation between the foster family and the biological family to create a relationship, said Schultz.

The Haskins focused on creating a team environment with the girls’ biological family.

Social Services doesn’t stand in the way of placing children as long as the family meets federal requirements, Schultz said. 

Bryant told the Mt. Sinai congregation on Sunday that when she had the two babies, she did not have a “village,” to raise them. 

But with the Haskins, “they gave me a village,” she said, referring to the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” 

Bowser was also appreciative of the Haskins taking in her son. 

“Thank you for the love you have given my family,” she said. 

Delanii and Levyn attend Hardy Elementary School and Randy goes to Smithfield High School.

All are honor roll students, said Louise. 

The Rev. Melvin Lyttle Jr. said having the three families coming together was unusual, but “it is awesome.” 

Lyttle quoted from Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, “I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” 

“There is only one race, the human race,” said Lyttle, looking at the congregation that morning.  

The entire group of extended families, white and black — moms, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and more — as well as the Mt. Sinai church family — gathered in the fellowship hall for lunch after the service.

“This was my dream,” said Louise.  {/mprestriction}