On Friday, June 17, LAF client Johnnie Brown got up and told the story of her family to over 500 people in a crowded ballroom. We laughed, we cried, we were moved by the love she and her husband have for their child, and we were proud of the work LAF did to keep them together. Her speech is below.
Good afternoon to the sponsors of this beautiful event and to all who are present here today. I am Mrs. Johnnie Brown, a proud parent of Dariaye Watt. I am here to commend Richard Cozzolla and his associates from legal aid for their dedication, sincerity and complete loyalty to me and for me in my plight to adopt my little angel.
She is the light of my life.
When Dariaye came to us she was 13 months old and had been in the hospital since she was born. My husband Flennard Watts and I were her foster parents. She had feeding problems, breathing problems, and medical problems. She was on 10 medications and a feeding tube. They told us she would never walk, never talk, not eat like other children, never be a normal child.
We went to the hospital every day before she came to us to learn how to care for her. We knew about a special clinic at University of Illinois with Dr. Miriam Kalichman. We transferred her medical care to Dr. Kalichman. We had nursing care in the home. We learned how to change her feeding tube and her breathing tube. I decided she could learn to eat. I put a bit of baby food on a Q-Tip and she started to lick it off. One day she opened her mouth and I knew she was ready for a spoon.
By the time she was 3 she was off almost all her medicine. She was walking. She was talking. Soon they took out her feeding tube, and we began to teach her how to eat completely on her own. The in-home nursing care needed less hours. We found a great school for her – Wilma Rudolph.
The foster care worker first asked if we wanted to adopt her. We thought about it and said yes because of the love we had gave her. Then one day in court, the adoption worker told us we were too old to keep up with her. She told the judge that on the next court day there would be another home for Dariyae. I left court crying.
We were afraid we would lose our little angel.
We knew about LAF and Danny Davis’s office told us how to get to them. We talked with Richard and Kim and Lea. They told us they would let us know if they could take our case. They didn’t promise anything – and said they had to check out things. They talked to the workers on the case. They talked to the people at the school.
LAF said they would help us. They had a big meeting at the Juvenile Court, with lawyers, and doctors and nurses and social workers. Rich and Kim from LAF asked everyone questions. The nurses and doctors talked about the good work we had done. So did the social workers who investigated us. My play niece Latasha, who works in a Doctor’s office, said she would be our backup person.
DCFS decided we could keep Our little angel and a year later we were able to adopt Dariyae. Meanwhile LAF helped with Dariyae’s special education and still does.
Now a few things about our angel. She is now 10 years old. She can walk and talk. She has been off her G tube for 5 years. When she was 5 she could read 100 words, and by the time she was 9, she had made too much progress to stay in her special school. She is now in a neighborhood school with some special services. She can do math and reading. Every day she asks my husband if he got the Sun Times, and she reads it to us. Everybody at the school loves her. They tell us, “Ms. Brown and Mr. Watts you have a superstar.”
I would like to truly thank LAF from the bottom of my heart for I realize the assistance they provided me truly enabled me to achieve my goal. Thank you.