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A Home For The Holidays: A new name for Anthony

The best Christmas gift didn't come in a box, from a store, or by Santa. It came on a piece of paper from the courts.

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — "Anthony Shunk. It is Anthony Shunk."  Proud words from a young boy who has much to celebrate this year. Little Anthony, who just turned 6 years old earlier this month, has been a part of Heidi and Roy Shunks' lives the past 4 years.  That's when he was placed with them as a foster child. 

Anthony was the 8th foster child placed with the Shunks. They have been fostering for about 12 years. With the first 7 children, Heidi and Roy cared for, and nurtured the children, eventually helping them transition back to their biological families.   

But Anthony's case was different. The Shunks began working to make the little boy a permanent member of their family and turned to the Adoption Network Cleveland for help navigating the process.

Credit: The Shunk Family
Heidi and Roy used sign language to help Anthony communicate when he arrived at their home. Today has a big vocabulary and loves to talk.

"The Adoption Network Cleveland provides support, education and advocacy for really everybody touched by adoption from all different angles," explained Betsie Norris, Executive Director. 

That includes adoptive families, foster families, children that are in kinship care, as well as adult adoptees and birth families, not to mention children who were in foster care and have aged out of the system. It spans the gamut of people who are touched by these cases.

"He's stable and he has a very happy life," said Heidi Shunk of Anthony. She says the little boy didn't really speak when he first arrived in their home. They used sign language to communicate with him.  Today, he loves to talk and has a vocabulary beyond his 6 years of life. 

Credit: The Shunk Family
Anthony's adoption was finalized a few months ago. He is spending his first Christmas as a "Shunk."

This is Anthony's 5th Christmas with Heidi and Roy, but his first as a "Shunk." He still catches himself as he talks about the new development in his life, referring to Heidi and Roy as his foster parents. But he is quick to make it clear, they are his parents from this point out. 

"I call both of you Mom and Dad," Anthony said. A gift that Heidi and Roy will treasure for a lifetime.

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 Editor's Note: The below story aired on December 22, 2020