After one year of marriage, Jay Henderlite and Chris Collinsworth knew they wanted to expand their family. They initially had different ideas on how they wanted to adopt. Jay wanted to take the traditional route and adopt an infant. However, during his time as a teacher at a Title IX school, Christopher, had seen firsthand the number of children in the community in need of a safe, stable home.

In January 2018, the couple took the first step toward adopting an older child and attended their first PRIDE class with Children’s Home Society of Florida.

During the training, the couple further realized the need for adopting older children.

“The class was eye-opening. There were so many children looking for forever homes,” Chris reflects. “Many were struggling to be placed because they were older. And others had behavior challenges due in large part to circumstances beyond their control.”

Jay and Chris were initially overwhelmed, but they also realized they wouldn’t have to wake multiple times at night to feed an infant or have to potty train a toddler. They agreed they had plenty of extra time to help an older child find safety and stability in their home.

Upon completion of the required training courses, CHS worked with Jay and Chris to match them with a child. In June 2018, the couple met Baylen and they all hit it off. After the initial meeting at a bowling alley, Baylen began having daytime visits followed by weekend visits. And in September 2018, Baylen moved in with Jay and Chris.

Jay told the judge during the adoption hearing, “He was the puzzle piece we didn’t know was missing from our family.”

Parenting any child has it’s challenges, and adopting a child who had experienced trauma prior in his life presents challenges you don’t anticipate.

“Even though we adopted an eight-year-old, we had just as many sleepless nights those first few weeks as if we had adopted a newborn,” Chris shares. “All adoption journeys are unique and there isn’t any other path we would rather be on.”

From the initial training with CHS to meeting Baylen to blending together has a family, CHS has been with Jay and Chris throughout their journey. “CHS has been such a blessing,” Jay says. “With classes, trainings and therapy, CHS has helped our family grow and flourish.”