For Greene County News
XENIA — Justin Weimer has been through several major changes this year. He moved from Akron to Xenia, started at a new school, left his old friends behind and made new ones, got adopted, changed his last name, attended his first formal dance and turned 16.
This many changes in less than a year could be overwhelming for anyone, but to Weimer, these were all positive life events that he was more than ready for.
Equally ready were his adoptive parents, Xenia residents Derrick and Tracey Weimer. They had been licensed by Greene County to adopt about two years ago and had searched throughout Ohio for a child that felt right for their family. When they saw Justin’s photo and read his profile late last year, their interest was sparked.
“You could tell from his smile that he was goodhearted,” Tracey said.
“And reading about everything he has been through,” Derrick added, “it just seemed like it was time for him to be part of a family.”
As an infant, Justin was removed from the custody of his biological mother due to her history of unsafe behavior, which included drug and alcohol abuse. For the first 10 years of his life, he was raised by his grandmother.
When she died, the trauma led to some behavior issues so the next couple of years included time spent in juvenile detention and a therapeutic group home. Prior to his adoption, he had spent three years in a traditional foster home in Akron.
Derrick and Tracey traveled north to meet Justin in January of this year and all three felt an instant bond. During Justin’s second weekend trip to Xenia, much to the delight of Tracey and Derrick, he asked if he could begin calling them “mom” and “dad.” In March, he moved to Xenia to live with the Weimers and in September his adoption and name change were finalized.
When asked what made him feel such an instant connection with the Weimers, Justin said that they reminded him of his grandmother.
“She never had to really punish me for anything, because all she had to do was tell me she was disappointed in me and that was enough for me to fix whatever the problem was,” he said. “I have that same feeling with my mom and dad now.”
The person who first suggested that Justin and the Weimers might be a good match was Rochelle Bridges, a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) adoption specialist with Tuscawaras County Children Services. Robb Rectanus, a Tuscawaras County caseworker, and Jessica Wilson, Greene County’s WWK specialist, were also involved in facilitating the adoption.
“If it wasn’t for the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, we wouldn’t have Justin in our family, so I can’t say enough good things about that program,” Derrick said.
The Weimers also had good things to say about all the other Greene County supervisors, caseworkers and trainers that assisted them at different stages of the adoption process.
“We found everyone at Greene County Children Services to be so positive and helpful,” Tracey said.
The Weimers advised those considering adoption to take their time, not to give up, be realistic and keep a positive attitude. They recommend not limiting options with long lists of desired or undesired characteristics, or by specifying limited ages.
“We were open to a child of any age,” Tracey said. “Justin just happened to be the one that we clicked with. I know a lot of people think older children come with a lot of ‘baggage,’ but let’s be honest, everyone carries baggage of one kind or another with them.”
Tracey and Derrick are happy to report that adopting Justin has not resulted in any major drama, just “normal teen stuff.”
As for Justin, he’s enjoying living a normal family life with parents who like to have fun, don’t take themselves too seriously, and most importantly, “they always tell me the truth.” His Uncle Darren, who is part of the household, is a big part of his life, as are other extended family members like his new grandmother.
Looking to his future, Justin is seriously considering becoming a social worker so he can help children in situations similar to what he went through. His proud parents think that’s a pretty great idea.