In 2014 Theo and Melissa Tucker got married, knowing that while they were happy with just the two of them, they wanted a family. Then doctors told them they both had health issues that made it unlikely they would ever have children.
“I don’t think I knew how much I wanted to be a mom until that moment,” said Melissa.
“So after a lot of crying… and sadness… and thinking what are we going to do… my wife sent me a video while I was at work one day about adoption,” said Theo. “Watching that video, I was like, 'we have to do this.'”
The St. Clair Shores couple signed up with an adoption agency expecting to wait possibly years for a newborn, as some parents do.
“They told us, 'you know what, this could actually happen really quick for you guys.' We were curious as to why. They said, 'because you are African American.' That shocked us at first and we weren’t sure how to take it,” said Theo.
The adoption agency explained there is a huge shortage of African American parents waiting to adopt.
Sure enough - a call came from adoption agency in Utah representing a mom who wanted her child raised by an African American couple. The problem? It cost about $20,000 more than the local agency they planned to work with, that so far offered them no child.
“They said our bill is $34,000. And you are like, 'what?!'” said Theo.
So what did they do? They asked for help on-line, emptied their own bank accounts, and hit the road. They met her at a hospital in Kansas. They named her Langston.
“When Melissa put her in my arms for the first time I think all of my insides melted,” said Theo.
“Every single trial. Every obstacle. Every single thing was so worth that moment - holding her,” said Melissa.
The adoption agency told them money was due before they could take Langston home. After selling their car and getting help from family and friends, they raised half of that money. The agency made an exception. They could take her home with temporary guardianship.
“It is the best. It is truly a dream come true,” said Melissa.
“I will see her in her little bed asleep and I am like, 'that is my daughter. I am a dad! I am somebody’s father,'” said Theo.
They fell in love. But they say the contract says if they don’t come up with the money, they could lose Langston. The agency has called to remind them of that, but so far has given them time.
“At some point, their generosity is going to run out and at that, point if we haven’t paid the bill, Langston is going to have to go back to Kansas,” said Theo.
“It would be devastating,” said Melissa in tears.
“We don’t want that and whatever we have to do to keep that from happening is what we are going to do,” said Theo.
Theo and Melissa say they wanted to share their story not only because they need help, but because many more babies need help. They say the community needs to come together to help African American couples who want to adopt, adopt. Langston's birth mother specifically wanted her child adopted by an African American family, and struggled to make that happen. Attorneys who work in child placement say two big reasons there is a shortage is the cost and awareness.
“There is no regulation of the industry so therefore you have these agencies charging high fees,” said B Good, Director of JEWJCC Adoption and Foster Care Outreach Program.
“There is a lot of children in need of being adopted but because it is not disseminated in our community, people don’t know about it,” said Rita White, a family law attorney in Detroit.
The fee the Tuckers were charged is in line with the average cost for private adoptions outside foster care in the U.S. That is $38,000 according to a survey done by adoptivefamilies.com.
The Heart to Heart Adoption agency says the fees cover the birth mother’s expenses, plus administrative and legal costs that protect the parents and children. Its executive director told me the agency almost never allows a child to go home with a potential parent before fees are paid. It made an exception because the Tuckers showed themselves to be a phenomenal couple. While technically the agency could take Langston back, it wants her with the Tuckers who love her.
“A baby is not a car. You don’t repossess a child,” said Donna Pope, Executive Director of Heart to Heart Adoptions, based in Utah. “… but at the same time the Tuckers are great people. They want to fulfill their obligation. They do have an obligation and need to fulfill their obligations.”
Melissa and Theo say they have faith they will find a way to pay .
“When our faith was challenged we stepped up and said, we don’t know how this is going to work out, but somebody is going to help us,” said Theo.
"I have to believe that all the obstacles and all the hoops and everything we have gone through, that God won’t let us down,” said Melissa.
They say if you feel moved to help them, they will be forever grateful. Donations can be made at www.paypal.me/AdoptBabyTucker. All donations go directly to the adoption agency.