How To Adopt a Child Without Signing Papers

Because there are several of you who have asked, ‘What’s the story behind your kid who doesn’t look anything like the rest of you?’ I made a phone call, asked permission, and am now laying it ALL out there.


The short answer to the question “How To Adopt a Child Without Going to Court’ is by omission: when the birth parent doesn’t give a shit.


Simple enough?


Okay- short story long:

Our kids had many friends.


We had the kind of home that all the kids tended to congregate at- plenty of food, plenty of room, always something going on, adults that were interested in them, etc.


Ben and I knew all of them, though some better than others. It didn’t matter. A friend was a friend was a friend blahblahblah, unless I caught you smoking pot- and then you were out.




One day, our son Chase, came through the door with a young man I knew, bashful and polite, but wasn’t one of the ‘regulars’. They both looked stunned and dazed.


He sent his friend upstairs with a, ‘I’ll meet you up there in a minute”, and then turned to me and said,”Mom, we have a problem.”


Oh Jesus. My favorite sentence.




“Tyler’s sister has just committed suicide.”


“What happened?”


“She was found hanging from her bathroom door and his parents are out of town. He doesn’t know what to do.”


“Where is she?”


“I don’t know? Maybe at a hospital?”


“Okay. I’m going up to talk to him.”




“Tyler? May I come in?”


A small, “yes.”


“What’s happened? Can you tell me?”


“My sister’s killed herself.”


“What have you been told? Who called you? Where are your parents?”


“I just saw my stepbrother. He told me. He found her just a little while ago. I was with Chase at the gas station. I can’t breath.”


“Where are your parent’s?”


“In Utah.”


“Utah. Why?”


“They’re picking up my other step sister from an Outward Bound program where they sent her because she was in their way.”




“When are they expected home?”


“I don’t know. They never told me.”


“Who’s taking care of you and all the other kids? Who’s the adult at the house?”


“We have a full-time housekeeper. She’s there. She cooks too. And drives us to school.”


“Why don’t you stay here, with us, until this all settles out. Okay?”




“I’m going to talk with Chase now, okay? Chase, can I see you alone please?”


And so I found out that Tyler was part of a blended family- except the blender had very dull blades.


His birth mother had died of an accidental drug overdose when he was just shy of eight and his stepmother’s first husband had died of something that she had sued over and won a wrongful death claim leaving her a very rich woman.


Tyler’s stepmother came to the marriage with three young kids (two girls and a boy) controlling the purse strings, and his father with three young boys- and the backbone of a slug.


All through that week, we both waited for a call from his parents.




I chalked it up to shock, but still….


Several days later, Tyler told us that his stepsister’s funeral was scheduled for the coming Saturday.


“Did your Dad finally call?”

“No. I found out at school from some kids.”




I called his family house and was told (by the housekeeper?) that neither parent was taking calls. I told her I had Tyler with me. She said, “that’s nice.” then hung up.


Ben, I, and our two children, took Tyler, standing with him, to the wake.


His stepmother was so drugged she could barely speak. Tyler told me that that was the way she always was. Stoned on prescription meds.


His father just bobbed his head up and down, with a stupid grin on his face (was he high too?) when I introduced myself, told him that Tyler had been with us, and would he call me to discuss ‘matters’?


I never received that phone call- ever.


Little by little Tyler, a senior in High School, told me what is was like to live in his home.


I’ll just say, here, that it was not a happy home and I’m being -g-e-n-e-r-o-u-s.


Over the next several weeks, with no contact from his family, I was encouraged, by my friends and family, to call Tyler’s father and stepmother.


I decided not to: I wanted to see just how long, and to what degree, they were willing to abandon him.


And they were VERY willing (several months of ‘willing’), so with High School graduation upon him, I decided it was time for a showdown conversation with his father.


“Hello. Mr. Smith? My name is Cheryl. You’re son has been living with my family for the past several months. I think it’s time we talk.”


“Oh. Sorry, I’ve been really busy lately. Could we talk tomorrow?”


“Tomorrow? I’m sorry I thought you said ‘tomorrow. No. We will talk today at 4pm, here, at my house, and if you don’t show-up I will be at your home, pounding on the door and roasting weenies in your driveway, so it’s going to be today, Mr. Smith. Am I clear?”


“I’ll be there.”


“I have a big mouth, Mr. Smith. You don’t want me using it in our small town. Start being smart.”


Next up: the fam…

“Chase. I’d like you to not return home after school today. I will be having a meeting with Tyler’s father and I don’t want you around until I call you.”




“Because I said so.”


“Bryn. I’d like you to go to Rachel’s house after school today. I am talking with Tyler’s father here this afternoon.”


“I’ll stay in my room.”


“As long as it’s Rachel’s’ room darling.”


“Ben. I’m going to have a talk with Tyler’s father later today. I don’t want you here.”




“Because you don’t like conflict, and this is going to be painful for someone. And I don’t want it to be you.”


“What are you going to say?”




And, he showed up. Tyler’s father, and, we had a talk, or maybe I should say ‘I had a talk’.


He attempted to garner my sympathy by telling me he had recently been diagnosed with cancer.


I said I didn’t give a shit. I really did.


“I don’t give a rat’s ass about your health. We are only talking about the son you have failed to have contact with for over five months.. The one who not only lost his mother, but has now lost his beloved stepsister. The son you and your wife have on all sorts of unnecessary medication. The kid who can’t get up in the morning without his pill, and can’t go to sleep at night without ‘his helper’. We are not talking about you. We are not talking about me. We are talking about him. And if you think because you have a ‘law’ degree you can manipulate this conversation you will find yourself sadly underestimating me.”


What I did give a SHIT about was 1) his son’s stability, 2) his son’s collage education, and 3) he having anything more whatsoever to do with his son because he was a sniveling tripe of a little man with no business being a father, and didn’t deserve any of his children, but I could only save one.


We agreed on a financial arrangement for Tyler’s college fund (no other monetary compensation was offered or requested), and he was on his way- never to be heard from again.


Never. To be. Heard from. Again.


That was 12 years ago.


Our entire family has taken him in as one of their own- all the weddings, the picnics, the holidays. The whole kaboodle.


Tyler graduated from Collage, did a ‘find myself’ moment in Colorado, and later found his way to New Orleans, after Ben and I relocated here.


He now lives down the street.


There have been ups-n-downs, like any young man finding his way.


But he will. Find himself.


And he can always come home.


Because WE are the blended family now…

and I keep my small appliances in tiptop shape.



  • Carol Cassara - Every so often I run into an angel on earth. You are one such angel. I’m privileged to know you.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh Carol- you’ve made me cry. I wish you were here so I could hug you. XXXOOOReplyCancel

  • Liv - I’m writing this with tears in my eyes. That young man is so very lucky to have a mother like you. What a story! Well done.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thank you Liv. Those were some tough days. What was I to do? I saw no other way to handle this. People thought I was crazy. I didn’t care. Thank you again! XXOOReplyCancel

      • Liv - You were the right kind of crazy. And I’m sure that he is extremely grateful.ReplyCancel

  • Lana - What an amazing mother you are. People talk about what they would do in a situation like this – but you didn’t just talk, you took action and DID something. And that young man was truly saved. Thank you so much for sharing this story – you made my day! Hope yours is wonderful.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I never thought I would be confronted with a situation like this- but then I was- and I just couldn’t throw him to the streets. I like to think no one would- except his father did. Jesus. Oh well, today I’m having lunch with Tyler. I win.ReplyCancel

  • Sue - You win is right. You and your family are a great blessing to the world and Tyler. Like another commenter says: You are angels on earth. Proud to know and love you.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh Sue. I love you too! Thank you for all your support my dear dear friend.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - You, are an amazing woman!ReplyCancel

  • Lori Lavender Luz - How fortunate for Tyler that he found such a soft and loving spot to land.

    Blessings to you all.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - That’s a beautiful way to put it- though sometimes I’m not sure he’d say I provide ‘soft’. I’m a tough taskmaster. HahaaaaaReplyCancel

  • Diane - Oh, man, I’m sobbing here! I can’t imagine that level of parental abandonment. So, so, SO glad that Tyler had you to pick up the pieces. My heart breaks for the other four children in that unbelievable situation. At least you saved one.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes. The other kids. I just can’t think about it. I concentrate on Tyler Diane. Otherwise I’ll scream.ReplyCancel

  • Darcy Perdu (So Then Stories) - Literally tears in my eyes, Cheryl! What an incredible story. Thank God you stepped up for Tyler when so many others had failed him! Your whole family is awesome!!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thank you Darcy. I really see my kid’s as the heros’. They had to share everything- suddenly, and fully. They said YES. I’m so proud of them all.ReplyCancel

  • Helene Cohen Bludman - Wow. This story took my breath away, Cheryl. Bless you for opening your home and your heart to this young man. You absolutely saved his life.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Ya know what? He gave me a great gift- his love.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs - Oh, how this hurt my heart. Yes, tears streaming as I type. Unbelievable the disregard of some for the children they’ve either had or taken in. YOU, my friend, have done an incredible thing (as you surely must know). You have changed a life, made it clear that life matters. You rock… and amaze me.

    A truly incredible story written so well. I’ll be thinking of this a long, long time.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thank you so much Lisa for your beautiful response. I’m fairly certain you, my dear, would have done the exact same thing.ReplyCancel

  • Kim Tackett - wow…thank you for what you did, and thank you for trusting is with the story. wow.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I asked his permission first and assured him my readers are a wonderful lot- like you Kim. Thank you for commenting.ReplyCancel

  • Claudia Schmidt - You are fantastic and deserve a place in heaven. I can not actually even fathom how parents could act the way his did, but I think it’s for the better as YOU are clearly a better and more loving parent for Tyler. I’m stunned and amazed by this story. Truth is stranger than fiction, right?ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh yea. Stranger then fiction Claudia. And do you know what? His father has NEVER tried to contact him in all these years. Can you believe it? How does he sleep?ReplyCancel

      • Claudia Schmidt - It’s so crazy, I can’t even comprehend. You always have such interesting posts, this one is just fascinating – there’s a book waiting to be written in that story…….ReplyCancel

        • Cheryl - Another one? I’ve got three on the burner but I’m afraid I’m so used to writing a blog that complete sentences allude me. HahaaaaReplyCancel

  • Cary Vaughn - Oh my God. I can’t stand it. This is so awesome, Cheryl. I REALLY appreciate you sharing this story! I’m going to have to read this one again.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thank you Cary and you’re welcome. It was time people knew.ReplyCancel

  • Kate Hall - This is pretty freaking awesome, Cheryl. Glad you were there for him. Life is so freaking hard.ReplyCancel

  • David Stillwell - You know… nothing really moves my Vulcan mind much… this did… I think you may have restored my faith in humanity…. I love you for that too… ReplyCancel

  • Connie McLeod - This story is remarkable on so many levels. Thank you for sharing it and thank your son for allowing you to tell it.ReplyCancel

  • Amy Skipper - Wow!ReplyCancel

  • Lois Alter Mark - OMG Cheryl, I am heartbroken and inspired at the same time. What your family did is amazing, and I wish only love and good things for all of you.ReplyCancel

  • Ruth Curran - Wow…your son’s birth “father” (and I use that term very loosely) is a staggeringly stupid and narcissistic man (and I use that term very loosely as well)…. He obviously lost out on being part of, what sounds like a wonderful young man’s life. How wonderful that your son lives down the street and is such a key part of your family.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes to all- and I’d like to add… very weak Ruth. A very weak man.ReplyCancel

  • Angela Hall Weight - I’m sitting here crying, having just finished reading this. Bless you and your whole family. I’d like to punch Tyler’s dad in the face, hard, with a hammer, repeatedly. ReplyCancel

  • Denise Scott Geelhart - Ummmm…Wow. Just wow. The heartlessness of his family (particularly his dad) is so disturbing. What you did was amazing! I told my husband the story and his first question was why you didn’t call Child Services. Anyhow, kudos to you and your family.ReplyCancel

  • Rena McDaniel - This story touched me at a very deep level. My husband comes from a huge dysfunctional family. We took his sisters teenage son into our home for several years until his drug habits drove a huge wedge between us, by this time he had gotten married and was spitting out babies one after another. When their youngest was 4 days old they called and asked me to babysit for the weekend. They came around w more times in the next 6 years wanting money or basically threatehing to take her back. We paid them $100 twice just to leave her be. About a year and a half later we were taken to court by the mom who had left the father and wNted her back. We had a lawyer, Dr.s records, character references. The judge actually said she gad made an intelligent decision by ababdoning her with us because sge kbew we would take care of her and was awarded to her mother who had seen her three times in 7 years. Now she’s 13 and lives with her mother and stepfather. She is “allowed”to spend summers with us (as long as I buy her school clothes) and 1 week of her Christmas break. We now live 400 miles away. We leave Christmas morning drive straight there and back for a 7 day visit then do itover again. All for the love of a little girl who may not be biologically mine, but mine no less. So you see, I really get it.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Life is so unnecessarily complicated. Some children are ‘birthed’ to the wrong parents, but luckily, occasionally, a few find people to love them- like you. My heart just breaks for this young woman. And for you and your husband who have to stand back and mostly watch it all because so many have failed to do the right thing. The judge. The parents. Jesus. God Bless You.ReplyCancel

  • Becky Sadler - Just remarkable on so many levels – you are me if I were in that situation – it is everything I ever pictured myself saying – I’m so glad you were there for him, for us!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - You are so kind! I’m usually pretty good at getting my thoughts out without faltering. You should have heard what I said to my Division Head when I resigned my teaching position! She was stunned… and she deserved it. HahahaaReplyCancel

  • Mari Collier - Bless you, Cheryl. Your heart is as big as your mouth. Hugs.ReplyCancel

  • Lizzi Rogers - I don’t have the words for how completely freakin’ awesome I think you are. And your whole family. You WIN AT FAMILY.ReplyCancel

  • Marcia Shaw Wyatt - Score one for the good guys! Thank you, Cheryl!!!! The world right now needs more caring parents like you … and this post is an excellent wake-up call to the rest of us. Thank you for posting it and for reminding us that if we want the future improved we need to open our eyes right now. When we see a need, we need to fill it. We need to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s the only way – and I much applaud you for making such a tremendous difference in Tyler’s young life!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Ya know Ruth, we never talk about it here among us. The family just accepts our decision and moves along with it, and I have to acknowledge that the ENTIRE family (Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) scooped him up- even though they didn’t really understand what was going on at the time. He was a stranger to them, but they saw the finality in my eyes and heard the resolution in my voice and opened their hearts, as well. I’m so proud of THEM. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a wonderful comment. I appreciate it.ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen O'Donnell - What a story. You’re a good woman, Cheryl Nicholl. You really are. ReplyCancel

  • Ida Chiavaro - I love a tough talker that actually is tough –ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - ‘Say what you mean. Mean what you say’, Ida- right? . One doesn’t need to say much, or even loudly to be heard. -wink-ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer W - Wow. What an awesome story. Kudos to you and your family for opening your hearts and home. As a child who was ignored, I will say that it only takes one person to show they care and that you matter. Sometimes that one person isn’t the right person, but Tyler got so lucky. He will find his way I am sure. Thanks for sharing your story.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Yes. So wise. Sometimes the one person is STILL the wrong person. I guess this might be how/why gangs are formed, or drugs/alcohol becomes a best friend. (I’m taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly so that we can pretend to be in the same room because I wish we were) What a shame. Life is hard enough. Indifference- especially towards a child- is a pet peeve on mine. (Is there more coffee? Let me get the sugar and we can talk awhile).ReplyCancel

  • The Shitastrophy - Just solidifies what I already knew about you – 1) never cross you 2) you are stronger than anyone I have ever met 3) Your heart is pure gold 4) I love you.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Here’s what I know: 1) people talk-talk-talk too much, 2) too many excellent people are scared of actually being their most authentic selves, 3) most people do not need to be friends with everyone they meet, and 4) the word ‘Love’ is overused, but not in this case- I love you too.ReplyCancel

  • ruthi coats - Thank you for writing the same way you speak. I appreciate people that are champions for others, even more so for children. We have ten adopted children and I also have seen the true need for paperless parenting the same as you. I want to put you as my hero for today. God Bless.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I can’t imagine writing any other way! Especially in a blog (hahaha). Seeing anyone taken advantage of, or being in the presence of indifference, especially when there are obligations involved, is a real game changer for me. Maybe it’s because I grew-up with a bully for a father, or because he always told me that everyone pulls their pants up the same way. Either way, when I see something ‘off’ and I can do something about- there I go. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave a lovely comment. I appreciate it.ReplyCancel

  • Chloe Jeffreys - Wow! What a story. Thank you for telling it. Tyler is fortunate to have a good friend like Chase who has a good mom like you. And knowing you like I do I can only imagine that dressing down that man received that day. What a sorry excuse for a sperm donor.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Hahaaaa. Yes. Dressing OFF was more like it Chloe! HahhaaaaReplyCancel

      • Chloe Jeffreys - My daughter’s bestfriend in high school was caught at my house in a terrible snow storm. I kept telling her to call her mom because I knew she’d be worried, but she wouldn’t. Finally I called her. Her response? “Oh. Fine.” Her daughter could have been out in a ditch, or dead, or frozen. She didn’t seem to give a shit. It was shocking. There really are people like this.ReplyCancel

  • Gwendolyn Gilkey - Love this!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - You knew all of this-right? Ty’s situation, that as. As for your Aunt’s big mouth- you knew that too. Ha! Love you Gwenny.ReplyCancel

  • Journey McGuire - Oh my God. That almost made me cry. I respect you so much for doing what you’ve done, and for doing what we’re here to do..change lives. You are awesome. I will be saying lots of prayers for him.

    I can really relate with this post. My son’s mother hasn’t contacted him since I’ve known him, except for a few months ago when she called my husband (high as a kite) to ask him if we’d adopt the baby she was about to have, because “it’s only right for a sister to be with her brother”. When he said no, she called him a piece of shit and we haven’t heard anything since. I’m sharing the shit out of this story.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Oh my God- back at you. Some people are so confused and weak and without any kind of inner dialogue. Without conscience is another way to put it. She should just keep having babies and you and your husband should just keep raising them for her? What a shame for all of you. Wow. Keep me posted and thank you for sharing YOUR story. Oh my.ReplyCancel

  • Roshni - Cheryl, I always loved you, but after reading this, I absolutely adore you! That is all.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - Thank you my beautiful exotic friend. I’ve got to PM you with something…. check your messages. ANd of course, thank you for stopping by.ReplyCancel

  • Lillian Connelly - This story just blows my mind. You are a light in the dark.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - It blew my mind at the time too. HahhaaaReplyCancel

  • leecy madison - I would like to adopt a couple of children around 5 or 6. Our son was killed when he was 25 and was not married so we will never have any grandchildren. When I applied to several agencies I was told we were too old. I admit i”m too old to take care of a baby but by the time they are 5 or 6, they can pretty much take care of themselves and I have lots of love to give them. My nieces children used to beg to come stay with me until they grew up. Then our cleaning ladies daughter came but she too has grown up so we are without any children now. I teach childrens’ arts and crafts. I would love to have some creative children to play with me.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I’m very sorry for your lose Leecy. I can’t imaging the pain in loosing a child so young. Teaching Arts and Crafts with young children is a noble activity. I’m sure you are making a difference and the kid’s can’t wait to ‘play’ with you. God Bless.ReplyCancel

  • Jamie Walterscheid - What a beautiful story! Way to go, mama! You are amazing. I’m so glad you found each other. ReplyCancel

  • Deirdre Kelly Ferguson - What an amazing story….what a loser of a father Tyler was born to, however I think he found his real family when he needed them the most. ReplyCancel

  • 50 Things About Me You Wish You Never Knew - - […] This blog post, by my friend A Pleasant House, “How To Adopt A Child Without Signing Papers.” […]ReplyCancel

  • One Funny Motha - Wow. What an amazing & unbelievable story. Truly. I cannot believe the parents/father never called again. Or in the first fucking place. My heart goes out to Tyler, but it looks like he’s found a good family now.ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - I always say when life throws you spitballs, you better be able to catch them- or, at least have the good sense to get out of my way as I try. HA!ReplyCancel

  • Todd Gaudin - One day, I would like to meet you. I live and work in Baton Rouge and have made adoptions a significant part of my law practice for 18 years. After reading the story, I wanted to give you a hug. I’ve seen what you’ve seen. Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • Linda Roy - Wow – what a story. You are so amazing Cheryl. I have no words for how unfathomable Tyler’s situation was. Thank God for you and your family. And as always, your candor is stellar!ReplyCancel

    • Cheryl - It was a first for me! And hopefully, the last.ReplyCancel

  • The 10 Best Blog Posts I Read In 2014 (Part 2) | Pecked to Death By Chickens - […] How To Adopt A Child Without Signing Papers (A Pleasant House) – An amazing story about a family that stepped in to help a boy and became his family. […]ReplyCancel

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