Mariah Hanlon: A Growing Family

Freshman Mariah Hanlon and her family pose for a family portrait.

Courtesy Photo

Freshman Mariah Hanlon and her family pose for a family portrait.

Raylee Mallett

Family is so much more than genetics and shared facial features. Freshman Mariah Hanlon embraced this fact when her family adopted three boys from the foster system on Sept. 20, 2019.

What was your family’s motivation to adopt Cory, Jullian, and Jerimiah? (maybe their old last name)

“My mom has a student named CJ and he was being fostered in a house where there were a ton of foster children and it wasn’t a foster-to-adopt situation. He had so much potential, but he couldn’t do much because he wasn’t in a family, he was in a group home.”

What was your first impression of Cory, Jullian, and Jerimiah?

“We got letters from their current families before we actually met them. They told us that Cory had special needs and needed a lot of help. We expected him to be non-verbal and couldn’t do anything. Then he got here and was this happy little kid who was just a little slow sometimes. So I was like, “wow, he is actually a little kid, he is not just a robot”. They were all just very sweet. It almost felt like babysitting the first night, but after the third night, it kind of sunk in, like, ‘oh hey, we are a family now.’”

What was the hardest part of the fostering process?

“It was really hard being thrown together and told, ‘ok, be a family now’ whenever we hardly knew anything about them. As we got to know each other, they started to warm up to us and we learned how they do things and think. It got better.”

What was the best part of the fostering process?

“The first day we had them, we were all outside with chalk and we were drawing and the boys were drawing a picture of us as a family. Then Cory drew a picture of a girl and was like, ‘look, it’s you. Are you my mom,’ and my mom was like, ‘oh, yeah. I am your mom.’ They just called her Mom after that.”

What financial-aid did CPS give your family?

“I am pretty sure it was $1,200 a month per kid. It definitely helped because my dad was going through his cancer treatment and couldn’t work, and there was a period my mom couldn’t work, but still got paid, just not as much as if she worked. So that money helped us make sure everyone had a nice, fancy pair of shoes, name-brand clothing, go on trips every now and then. We just did fun stuff together. We had a maid so we could spend more time together as a family and didn’t have to worry about cleaning.”

Did you and your family ever doubt adopting the boys?

“Adopting, no. Fostering, there were times. The movie ‘Instant Family’ follows the story of a married couple that couldn’t have children, so they adopted a teenager and two little kids and it went over some of the things we related with. There is a honeymoon phase, so like the first month you have the kids, they are the sweetest little angles and everything is perfect and everyone is happy, then after the month passes, they start to throw fits and they don’t respect anyone. Ii makes you think, ‘why are we doing this?’ But then you realize, ‘Oh, we are doing this for the kids.’ Once we get over this, they will be able to live their lives like normal children.”

What happened on the adoption day?

“It was a school day. It was the day of the Area 51 raid and school picture day. Then I was checked out before lunch and drove all the way to the courthouse. Thirty people out of our family came. We were all scared because none of us had been in court. Two hours after we got there, the judge was ready. Then we all sat down and thought it was going to be fancy and official. Then the judge said, ‘what are you all sitting down for? Everyone come up here, this is a family affair.’ So we all went up there and the judge asked us questions like, ‘what religion are you, do you promise to raise these children as your biological children’ then he made us promise we would be a happy family.”

What was the first thing you did when you got home?

“We all changed into superhero costumes. The [adoption] party was superhero-themed because all the best superheroes were adopted. Superman, Spiderman, Batman were all adopted. Each of the boys had a Superman, Batman, or Spiderman shirt. And I dressed up as Wonderwoman.”

How have the boys changed your perception of the fostering system?

“Movies usually portray foster kids as broken almost. But, they are really a lot stronger than you think. It just made me realize how resilient everyone is and that they are some people out there that are really corrupt. Like, who would be in it for the money? You are raising children and that is your job when you foster. So why would anyone in their right mind just do it for the money?”

What would you tell everyone about the foster system?

“The foster system needs people. It is so overrun that more people need to be aware, you don’t have to have your own biological kids to have a family. Fostering is always an option. There are just so many kids out there who need help.”

What do you envision the boys doing in their futures?

“There is a lot about Cory’s future that is unknown. There are some days where we are like, ‘he is gouging to be successful when he grows up.’ There are days where we are like, ‘he is going to live with our parents.’ Jullian is crazy smart, he is going to be a successful person. I don’t know if he is going to be an engineer or a doctor, but something. Jeremiah, I feel like he has a future of sports of some kind.”

What is the weirdest thing that has happened since you adopted the boys?

“It is weird because when we first started taking the boys out in public, we got a ton of dirty looks. It was just weird how judgemental people were. I have just kind of stopped noticing it. It was kind of funny when we would be at Sam’s or Costo or something and we would get a bunch of dirty looks from older people. So I would be like, ‘come on little bro, let’s go see our mom.’ I always thought it was funny to see their faces whenever they are like, ‘Y’all are related?’