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Published Tue, Jan 29, 2013 08:00 PM
Modified Mon, Jan 28, 2013 12:37 PM

Five Minutes With ... Stephanie Lanzolla

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Stephanie Lanzolla and her husband Vincent married seven years ago. They adopted a teenage son six years ago. Stephanie is an administrative assistant with the Town of Clayton. She also staffs the information desk at Town Hall with volunteers and is always in need of more people for that position.

Q: You’re from Charleston, SC originally. What brought you to Clayton?

I moved to North Carolina for a job with a major retailer then ended up staying after I got married.

Q: So you met your husband here in North Carolina?

I did. On the internet actually. I was living in Wilson’s Mills at the time and he was living in Clayton. We met on-line and that was it. We’ve been married seven years.

Q: Do you have children?

We actually have a son that we adopted. We adopted him at the age of 16. He’s 22 now but he doesn’t live with us. He went back to live with his biological family. We are about to start the adoption process all over again.

Q: How did you come to adopt a 16-year-old? Were you a foster family?

We decided to skip bottles and diapers and jump to the teen years. We decided to adopt to adopt. We were not foster parents per se. In North Carolina you have to be licensed to foster in order to adopt. We went in knowing we were going to adopt. We just decided that when we felt it was right then we’d know. We weren’t looking for a particular age group or anything. We met him at a matching event. We said that it seemed to be a good match based on little odd quirks about him that seemed to match our family. Some things in my husband’s and my background.

Q: What were some of those quirks?

One of them was that my husband used to bite his fingernails and we noticed that Lloyd was sitting there nervously biting on his finger nails. He loved to play video games and they were some of the same video games that my husband and I like to play. He said something in one of his questionnaires about wanting to visit Italy. (Lanzolla’s husband carries dual citizenship in the U.S. and Italy.)

He wasn’t at the first event we attended, we just saw a profile on him. We asked if could meet him at the next event. They brought him to the event and we got to meet him and talk with him. We took him to play putt putt and to the movies and spent some time getting to know him.

Q: How long had he been in foster care?

He was 16 at the time but had been in the system since he was 11. He was living in a group home in Fayetteville.

Q: Was he aware that you were interested in adopting him?

Yes. They don’t want you to meet a child until you know that you’re pretty committed to that. They don’t want you to say, “Never mind.” They want you to be 99 percent certain that you want to move forward with this before you meet the child in person. Although, like I said, we had met him at a matching event which was something where they bring the kids to go bowling or roller skating or something like that. The one that we met him at was at a lake with boating and skiing. It gives the families an opportunity to meet the children at an event that is low pressure.

Q: But still, a whole lot of pressure. When you were at the matching event were you and your husband looking around and thinking, “Well, possibly that one...”?

Yes. They have a very brief profile with the child’s photo and their information and more information on the website. They also have their social workers there. You can talk with the social workers that are responsible for that particular child and get to know a little bit more about them.

Q: Do you feel like the social workers really know the children well?

Oh yeah.

Q: So when you decided to adopt who did you go through?

We went through Children’s Home Society of North Carolina. They basically work with social services to help match families with children.

Q: Do they always work with older children?

No. They also do private adoptions. If you want to get on the waiting list for an infant you can. We just chose to do whatever felt right. It just happened to be a 16 year old.

Q: Typically older kids have a harder time getting adopted, is that right?

Older children and sibling groups are considered “special needs”. I think it is over the age of eight. It’s so difficult to get them adopted. It’s really sad. That’s why my husband and I are going back into the foster system to foster or adopt. As a matter of fact we just started classes last week to get back into it.

Q: You said Lloyd is now living with his biological father? How did that work out?

Not well for us. It was a heartbreaking time. He’s 22 now and when he turned 18 he decided to go back and live with his biological father. A lot of times these children have this hole that is left from not being a part of their biological family. They need to re-connect with them some way. We would have much rather been his support. We have limited contact with him. We reach out for him at different times throughout the year, but we have basically left it up to him. We’ve told him that if he wants to re-form that relationship we’ll be here for him.

Q: So, in trying again with a second child what are you looking for?

Again, whatever feels right. I think because of what my husband and I know about how older children get left hanging in the system that’s what we’ll end up with. Our hearts just go out to those kids.

Corresponent Holly Lock

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