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Tammy Neurohr’s son Justin wanted to know where Family Court Judge John David Myles’ pants were.
Tammy and her four children skipped school last Friday morning at the Anderson County courthouse so that Allison, and her fraternal twin siblings Sydney and Rolan Ebersole could officially become adopted as Neurohrs.
The Neurohrs could not agree on their favorite parts of Thanksgiving, the first Thanksgiving they’ll be spending as the new Neurohr family.
Ally said she likes spending time with family (though she said she wishes she could spend time with her boyfriend).
Justin loves ham, Sydney likes apple pie and Rolan gets excited for the Thanksgiving classics — turkey and stuffing.
The four siblings don’t necessarily agree about last Friday’s Adoption Day, either.
“It was the most important day of our life,” Ally, 14, said.
“Of your life,” Rolan, 9, replied.
Ally is the most affectionate, Tammy said. Justin asks the most questions, like why it seemed Judge Myles wasn’t wearing any pants. Sydney is the quietest.
“Rolan argues with everybody,” Tammy laughed.
Rolan misses his last name. Each child could keep their last names when they were adopted, Tammy said, if they came up with three reasons why.
Justin, the first child Tammy looked after as a foster parent and her first adoption, was the only one to create a convincing argument.
One, Goodlett was the name God gave him, he told Tammy.
Two, he knows how to spell it.
Three, Justin was born with that name.
Justin kept his last name.
Tammy, a single mom, said she always wanted to adopt Justin.
Now a special education teacher at Robert B. Turner Elementary, Tammy first met Justin when he was attending the Early Childhood Center in 2006.
Justin came home with Tammy as a foster child in 2008 and she officially adopted him in July 2013.
The sibling trio of Allison, Rolan and Sydney became foster children of Tammy’s in 2009. Tammy, who opens her home for children who need to be removed immediately in emergencies, has fostered 20 children in five years.
Sydney stayed in four foster homes, Tammy said. Allison stayed in six, including a stint at the hospital. Rolan went to four. Justin lived in three different homes before Tammy’s.
“I’m just really happy she adopted us because I feel like she’s my mother and all that stuff,” Ally said of Tammy.
All four of the Neurohr children call Tammy by her first name, not Mom. Tammy said she doesn’t mind because she knows her kids think of her as Mom and respect her as Mom.
“I feel like she’s my blood, that her blood runs through my veins,” Ally said.
When she first told friends and family that she would be adopting three more children, Tammy said, her coworkers thought she must be crazy.
“I went from a single person to a mother of four,” Tammy, who gets support from her parents Gary and Jane Neurohr, said.
Throw in a full-time job and a recent move to a new house on Hiawatha Court three weeks ago, too. Tammy apologized for the unpacked boxes.
“I didn’t want to [move] because I’d rather be lazy and watch TV,” Rolan said, sliding underneath the coffee table and sporting Spongebob Squarepants slippers.
His leg braces, Tammy explained, scratch the new house’s hardwood floors.
Rolan has cerebral palsy. Justin is blind in one eye and has hearing loss. Rolan, Allison and Sydney struggle with ADHD and other social and behavioral issues.
The “ripping and running” of schedules is what’s often most difficult about being a mom, Tammy said.
Instead of feeding only herself, Tammy feeds the appetites of four hungry and busy kids with medications, doctor’s appointments, swim practices and baseball games for Rolan and Justin.
It’ll get even crazier once Rolan goes in for surgery next summer to correct his walk and give him some independence.
But her family’s problems aren’t any greater than the things she sees her sisters’ families go through, the Anderson County native said.
One day, Tammy said, she wants to give birth to her own biological children. Dating can be difficult with four children, she said with a laugh.
That’s in the future, she said, a future where it’s possible that a 33-year-old Tammy will have two children in high school.
A future where Rolan could carry on the Neurohr name.
Thanksgiving with the Smiths
Christmas arrived early for the Smith household Sunday afternoon, a few days before the family would travel to Ohio for Thanksgiving to see Shayla Smith’s parents.
Christmas trees (including the one upstairs where the family gathers every year for Christmas morning devotion) were lit and decorated.
Nick Smith, 12, baked sugar cookies in the kitchen and his new sister Laci-Joy toddled after him as he walked in and out of the living room to check on the oven.
At one point Madi, 9, came into the living room giggling about a reindeer headband popping out of Laci-Joy’s head.
Usually the Smiths visit Grammy and Papaw’s house in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, at Christmas but the family is switching up their travel plans.
This year it’s Ohio for Christmas, and Lawrenceburg for Thanksgiving.
But Smith family is used to navigating the unfamiliar.
“Last year we were still in the unknown of what was going to happen,” Shayla said of her 19-month-old daughter Laci-Joy’s adoption process.
Shayla, a co-worker of Tammy Neurohr’s at Turner, explained adopting foster children can have its quirks.
For one, Shayla said, they list the age of the mother when the child was born on the birth certificate, even adoptive mothers. She can’t wait to see what Tammy’s daughter Allison, 14, will list the 28-year-old Tammy’s age as.
There’s the fact that foster children don’t ask to move from home to home, Shayla said, as best as you try to provide one.
“The reality is, foster kids don’t ask for this,” Shayla said.
For seven years Shayla and Rich tried to get pregnant. They began the process of an overseas adoption through the Ukraine, but then that country’s adoption door closed.
Living in Tennessee at the time, the Smiths became part of a program in which prospective adoptive parents can choose to foster first and then adopt. Their adopted son Nick came home with them in September 2001.
Shayla found out she was pregnant with her oldest biological son, Drew, in January.
The hardest part of the first adoption process, Shayla said, was when Nick’s brother returned to his biological family. Nick said he remembers making gingerbread houses with his dad, Rich, in those early years of adoption.
Shayla remembers the devastation of Nick’s brother returning to his biological family and the effect it had on the Smiths, how the choice to foster in children and adopt would affect their extended family.
“That was the hardest part of this whole process,” she said.
A 2009 convention presentation focusing on adoption was the catalyst for Rich, a youth pastor, and Shayla’s decision to adopt for a second time.
“When they were talking about that, we just kind of knew we were going to start this process,” Rich said.
Rich still has the leather key chain in the shape of an X with 143 punch holes, each hole representing one of 143 million orphans.
“The first time we did this it was for a selfish purpose,” Shayla said of adopting Nick. “It was to complete our family.”
“We felt like there was a fourth child out there for us,” she said of Laci-Joy.
The couple asked their three children if they’d be OK with foster care and, ultimately, adoption.
The kids were on board.
Worried that Laci-Joy may not be staying with the Smiths permanently, the kids found reassurance after completing a scavenger hunt in Laci-Joy’s room earlier this year.
The Smith children rearranged index cards to spell out “Laci is going to be adopted and be your forever sister.”
Laci-Joy, after a year in foster care with the Smiths, became a Smith on June 25, 2013.
It’ll be her first Thanksgiving as a Smith.
“I felt mixed emotions because I was like, she’s coming home with us, but when she goes through the toddler stage, it’s going to be hard,” Drew said.
Shayla said she forgets that her children aren’t all hers, biologically speaking. She’ll be talking about how all four of her children were C-section deliveries, and then have to catch herself.
“I forget that myself because they’ve been with me always,” she said.
Rich said he always thought he’d have two kids, never thought he’d have a big family. Shayla agreed; she only wanted two.
Maybe what they really meant, Shayla added, what that the Smith family required two of each.
The Neurohr family
Tammy Neurohr, mom
Allison Neurohr, 14
Justin Goodlett, 12
Sydney Neurohr, 9
Rolan Neurohr, 9
The Smith family
Shayla Smith, mom
Rich Smith, dad
Nick Smith, 12
Drew Smith, 11
Madi Smith, 9
Laci-Joy Smith, 19 months