If you ask Steve and Lisa Nanakorn what they were doing before 22-month-old Trinity came into their lives, you’ll get a knowing laugh and a one-word answer: sleeping.
The Nanakorns will also tell you they had been trying for 10 years to turn their twosome into a family of three or more. The now-parents of the tiny girl with the big, brown eyes decided to pursue alternatives, and after hearing about Allies for Every Child (Allies), they attended a foster and foster-adopt orientation session. By the time the meeting ended, they were ready to plunge into the transformative process.
“For me,” Lisa said, “it was a relief. We saw how wonderful everybody was; the information was amazing. We chose Westside because of that first orientation.”
Lisa and Steve enrolled in Allies’ MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) course, where they learned everything from understanding attachment for foster and adopted children to court processes, legal timelines, and how to choose a pediatrician. They left each week with no question unanswered, but were encouraged to text, call, and email staff at any hour if something arose before the next class. Almost two months later, the Nanakorns completed the process to become certified foster parents. Within several months, they had a baby girl.
“Once we picked her up and put her in the car seat,” said Lisa, “we got half a block away, and looked at each other like, ‘Oh my gosh, it just got real.’” It was July 2013, and Trinity was just five days old. “That night, I cried my eyes out as I got to rock her,” Lisa said.
Allies staff performed developmental assessments on Trinity as soon as the family brought her home. Like the first-time parents, the Allies team wanted to ensure Trinity was keeping up cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally with her peers. Roughly one in six children are affected by one or more developmental disabilities, yet by age 2, only 10 percent of those children receive services – an even bleaker statistic for children growing up without a family advocating for them.
The assessments showed Trinity needed a boost to build up her gross motor skills. She hated tummy time, a critical step in development when babies strengthen their muscles and prepare to crawl. Steve and Lisa turned to Allies for Every Child for help.
“Any type of suggestion that anybody had for us, we were certainly on top of it,” Lisa said. “Whatever she needs, we would do it.”
The Nanakorns opted for infant massage, swim class, and physical and occupational therapy. They attended Allies’ monthly foster parent support group meetings, where they soaked up the knowledge and resources offered by other parents and Allies staff. After several months of personalized physical activities and tireless collaboration between parents, Allies staff, and service providers, Trinity was crawling.
“It was like a light switch,” Steve said. “Next thing you knew, she was climbing up, and standing on her own, and guiding herself to walking.”
Trinity’s mobility flourished. Now, she runs, dances, and pulls Lisa off the couch to practice poses learned in Mommy and me yoga class. No obstacle can stop her. When Steve and Lisa set up a baby gate to keep Trinity away from the stove while they cook dinner, the little girl drags a chair down the hallway, hoping to hoist herself over into the kitchen to be closer to her parents.
“I applaud her creativity,” Lisa said with a laugh. “I don’t anticipate sleep any day soon.”
It’s those frame-worthy moments that Lisa and Steve are grateful for. After 10 years trying to conceive, followed by several months of foster-adopt training and preparations, their persistence finally paid off. The week before Thanksgiving 2014, the Nanakorns finalized Trinity’s adoption and headed straight for Disneyland to celebrate at breakfast with Pluto, Mickey, and Minnie, Trinity’s favorite. It was a surreal and magical day.
“This has been a dream come true,” Lisa said. “The timing was right. In the end, it’s perfect.”
Trinity continues to make progress, honing her cognitive and gross and fine motor skills with puzzles and ABCs. Her parents plan to keep her enrolled in the services and activities that have helped her become the talkative, engaged, and adventurous child she is today.
“With Westside giving us milestone goals, it made us a little more proactive than reactive,” Steve said. “It was nice to know there were all those resources and everything we needed for her there.”
“When they say it takes a village,” Lisa added, “it really does.”