Finding Brittany

A church mission trip—and an extra bedroom—inspired the Dickey family to adopt.

June 24, 2013

The Dickey family
Adopting a daughter made the family complete.

Paige Dickey is upfront about how her husband and two boys came to adopt from foster care.

“Honestly, it started with me, I was the nag,” she said with a laugh. “It didn't take a whole lot of nagging, but it did take some.”

Looking back, Paige Dickey said the family is better off for adding a member.

“We benefited as much as Brittany,” Paige said of her now 15-year-old daughter. Brittany was placed with the Dickeys in September 2010 and the adoption was finalized in April 2011.

The family also is serving as a foster family for a 3-year-old.

Deciding to adopt

The Dickeys first inquired about Brittany, who had been living in foster care in another state for two years, using AdoptUSKids’ free photolisting service.

Paige, 44, and her husband, Travis, 39, live in Rincon, Georgia, with their two biological sons, Walker, 10, and Conner, 7. The idea of adoption arose after their church sponsored a residential care facility in Mexico for children whose parents were serving time in prison, planting the seed of adopting a waiting child in their minds. Then the family moved into a five-bedroom house and realized they had room, and love, to spare.

The boys were involved in the discussion, and Paige and Travis Dickey decided to adopt an older girl, that way she would not feel that she was in competition with the boys.

“We wanted her to come in and feel like she had her own category,” Paige Dickey said. “She was not the same age or gender or anything related to the boys.”

Growing as a family

Brittany was considered to have special needs, Paige Dickey said, but not because of any developmental or behavioral issues, it was because of the level of trauma she had experienced.

“She wanted a family, that's what she wanted, a home and a family, a mom and dad, and to fit in, and have people love her and take care of her,” Paige Dickey said. “It hasn't been all beautiful and rainbows, it takes some work.”

On balance, though, Paige Dickey chalks up the difficulties to the normal challenges of raising a teenager. Despite it all, Brittany has shown above-average academic and social growth, values taken to heart in a family where both parents are educators. Paige Dickey is principal at an elementary school, and Travis Dickey is an assistant principal and athletic director at a high school.

After arriving with her forever family at age 14, Brittany tested at a fourth-grade reading level. Since then she has advanced five grade levels and enrolled in honors mathematics and science classes. At present she is, as her mom puts it, “a typical ninth-grade cheerleader in high school who mouths off at her mom sometimes.”

Right now, Brittany and her mom are undergoing the painstaking process of preparing for her first formal high school dance.

“Everything has to be just right,” Paige Dickey said wryly.

Overcoming adversity and flourishing

The progress Brittany has made with her forever family may best be understood in light of what the buoyant teenager survived. She was removed from her birth mother's care at age 8 and placed with her birth father, but never found stability because she bounced in and out of foster care. Paige Dickey said Brittany was physically and emotionally abused by her birth family.

She said Brittany has been in therapy, can discuss her experiences, and even shows a sense of humor when talking about the adversity she has faced.       

Despite the trauma, Paige Dickey said the consensus among caseworkers was that Brittany would flourish if given a chance to be placed in a loving, stable family.

“I trusted her caseworker,” Paige Dickey said. “And it paid off.”

Now the family couldn't imagine life without her.

“She will say, 'I'm so lucky,'” Paige Dickey said. “And I say, 'We are too.'”

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