YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — It’s a bond built on love.
Shay and Ray Clemons live in Youngstown. Ray works as city bus driver in Cleveland. Together, they raised a son and sent him off to college. But they quickly noticed that they had a lot more love to give.
“I’m a child from the foster care system,” said Shay Clemons. “So when our son went off to college, I was like ‘what’s next?’”
In 2017, Shay and Ray adopted Marquise, now 19-year-old, from Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program which is part of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. And in April of this year, the Clemons family welcomed Jace, now 18, and Tony, who is now 17. Jace and Tony are not related but they are best friends. The adoption program worked to keep them together.
“I know there’s no perfect family in the sense of the word, but each family has their own imperfections and flaws,” said Jace Clemons. “And that’s what makes a family, a family.”
This year, Ray and Shay also welcomed their biological daughter Olivia. She’s now six months old.
"I tell everybody that we stick together like crazy glue," said Shay Clemons.
There have been more than 1,100 foster care adoptions in Ohio through the program which focuses on finding families for teens, sibling groups and kids with special needs. Laura Holt, an adoption recruiter with the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, helped to pair the children with the Clemons family.
“Even as an adult we need our families,” said Holt. “It’s really important that our teens have that and become the best version of themselves that they can be.”
There are about 3,000 kids who are currently awaiting adoption in the state of Ohio, with about a third of those kids turning 18 in the next year, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
For the Clemons family, adoption has become a powerful symbol of love, support and trust.
“Once that bond comes together, it's a beautiful thing.”
More information related to adoption opportunities in the state of Ohio can be found at www.fosterandadopt.jfs.ohio.gov.