Adopting Four – and Then One More
When Pat and Susan Ryan first decided to adopt children in 1997, they had no idea it would lead to them adopting their grandson in 2017.
Pat has had a heart for helping children since he was a child. Growing up, he remembers a collection being taken at church to feed hungry children and thinking, “Why don’t we just take the children in?”
Years later, after marrying Susan and learning they couldn’t have children of their own, they decided to adopt. They worked with Child Crisis Arizona to get their license and adopted four children between 1998 and 2005 – William, Enrique and sisters Monica and Martha.
Seeing a need, Pat became even more involved, becoming a board member of Arizona Action for Foster Children, an organization that ultimately became part of Child Crisis Arizona. He then served on the Foster Care Review Board for the Arizona Judicial Branch for two years, advising the court on permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Additionally, as owner of Ryan Safety Services, he has serviced the fire extinquisher equipment at all of Child Crisis Arizona’s locations since 2005, free of charge.
“I was led by my desire to help and be involved in the foster community,” says Pat. “The areas of adopting, advocating and philanthropy was our calling, and we encourage others to do the same.”
During this time, their children grew. The oldest, William, moved to Colorado and had a child who they named Patrick, after his grandpa. Enrique, Monica and Martha live and work in Arizona. Though involved in their children’s lives, Pat and Susan were looking and planning for future retirement.
In August 2014, Pat and Sue learned that their 2-year-old grandson had been removed from William’s home by the State of Colorado. Immediately they returned to Child Crisis Arizona to get relicensed for adoption, “just in case.”
Turns out, it was an important decision. Patrick’s foster care placements weren’t working out. Because he was non-verbal and self-abusing, the staff from Colorado’s Department of Human Services had a difficult time finding a home for Patrick. When they shared there was no foster home willing to take Patrick, Pat and Sue said they would take him. Patrick moved into their home in May 2015.
Their first focus was to help Patrick communicate.
“We initially started using sign language but then we found a game that tapped into Patrick’s competitive spirit,” says Pat.
Each night, Sue would hold up picture cards and Pat and Patrick would compete to say what the picture was. The winner received a piece of candy.
“Funny thing was, in all those times, I never won a game or a piece of candy,” says Pat with a smile. “He always won.”
A few weeks after Patrick had moved in, the family went back to Colorado for an assessment. The case workers thought nothing had changed because Patrick wasn’t talking during the visit. Then Sue and Pat asked them to watch as they played the picture card game.
“Their mouths dropped open when he responded,” says Pat. “They had never heard him speak.”
With increased communication, Patrick’s self-abuse and challenging behaviors diminished. Patrick now attends Catholic Social Services West Side Early Head Start program in Peoria. In the fall, he’ll begin kindergarten, like other 5 year olds.
“All the things we were taught over the years getting licensed really helped to benefit our grandson,” says Pat. “The methods really work.”
There’s also something else that really works – love.
And love was certainly in the air when, on February 14, 2017, Pat and Susan formally adopted Patrick.
“He identifies us as his parents. He knows that he belongs here, and that we all love him,” says Pat.