All adoptions are an emotional roller coaster. But there’s something especially moving about how the Scull family in New Jersey adopted their two teenage daughters. Now you can read about their unique journey in the words of adoptive mother Lesli Scull. 

Brett and I have always been interested in adoption. We raised our two biological sons and enjoyed them so much and felt confident we had lots to offer another child. We knew there was space in our home and definitely in our hearts. Life is short, kids are the future. And way too important to be put on hold anymore. Somehow, we knew our child was out there….  We just needed to connect. 

The dream needed to come to fruition. We weren’t getting any younger and our child was waiting for us. We called around. We grew incredibly frustrated with the system—the obstacles and blockades between us and available children, not to mention the expense. Eventually, I called the New Jersey Division of Family and Child Services inquiring about becoming foster parents. We were on the fence with fostering, we really wanted to adopt but didn’t think we could afford an agency. It was during the pandemic and they were not accepting or training new people. We said we were interested in older children and they referred us to Downey Side and provided the number. 

The cost was reasonable. And right away they were ready to meet with us, explain the process and help us. We left the appointment and immediately made the decision we were going to be parents again!! How exciting! We searched through hundreds of kids and needed to be very honest with ourselves regarding what child would truly fit our family with us both working full time and being 52 and 54. After reviewing several case studies we found our daughter. She was a perfect fit. Her name was Jada.

Jada was 14 with green eyes, dark hair and cute as a button. Her case worker was wonderful, too. We got to meet her online, and so, the process began. One night we were talking to Jada on the phone at her group home in Georgia and her friend Shannun, yelled in the background, “You can adopt me too!” I just laughed. But it stuck in the back of my head. 

After a few months, we got word we were able to travel to Georgia to see if we were a good fit. If we were, we could bring our girl home. We took both girls out to lunch and returned Shannun to the group home afterward. Shannun was so sweet, red hair, blue eyes, a special smile, and yet a typical teenager. She started to cry when we packed up Jada to leave for home. 

My daughter kept in touch with Shannun and approached us months later about potentially adopting her. This was ironic because my husband and I had already started to inquire about Shannun. We were told she had taken herself off the adoption sites because she felt like she was older and it was too late to be adopted. When my husband and I approached Shannun about adopting her she was so excited and got teary eyed. The process definitely took longer with Shannun, between caseworker changes and paperwork challenges. It was one hurdle after another. 

Shannun was 17, so we wanted her with us as soon as possible. She needed SATs, senior year, a driver’s license and college applications. Thanks to Downey Side and their help navigating an incredibly complicated system we finally have our two daughters. They are thriving and we are all learning every day. 

The system that was created to help kids doesn’t do nearly the job Downey Side does. Granted the purposes are different but these kids are individuals and deserve to be treated as individual kids with a problem that needs to be solved. That’s exactly what Downey Side does.  They help one kid at a time find their forever family. They provide resources that are so valuable for the journey of adoption. 


— Lesli Scull


The Sculls aren’t the only family to have adopted more than one child with the help of Downey Side. But typically, the kids are siblings rather than best friends. Of course, Jada and Shannun are now sisters, too. That’s the magic of family.