Lifestyle & Human Interest

19-Year-Old Adopted by Caseworker After Aging Out of Foster System


Mothers’ Day is coming up, and it’s a holiday that many take for granted. It’s a nice way to honor the woman who raised you, cared for you and loved you — but not everyone gets to celebrate that special mentor in their life.

Monyay, a 19-year-old in Bradenton, Florida, hasn’t gotten much use out of the holiday in years past. Growing up in foster care and group homes, her own mother was not available to her when she needed her the most.

But for the past five years or so, Leah Paskalides was.

Paskalides, an adoptions assistant manager and Monyay’s case manager, also became Monyay’s mentor — and this year, she became her mother.

But the two didn’t start out that way. In the beginning, Monyay was not a fan of her caseworker.

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“She told me what she was going to be doing and helping me out with my case. I didn’t like her; she’ll tell you that,” Monyay said to WFTS-TV.

But Paskalides saw that Monyay was a determined young woman who just needed a mentor figure in her life.

“My senior year when I went through like a, I didn’t want to do it anymore, I’m done, she, she picked me back up and told me, like, ‘I got you,’ pretty much,” Monyay explained.

“She was very motivated and she had aspirations for a future, and I wanted to help her continue to have that, and so I knew that she just needed support,” Paskalides added.

Due to Paskalides’ position, adoption originally wasn’t possible, and eventually, Monyay aged out of the system. But then Paskalides realized she could adopt Monyay as an adult, and that changed everything.

“She’d always said, like, ‘I wish you could adopt me, wish you could adopt me’ — couldn’t because of the job, and then I was watching a documentary where the person had been adopted as an adult, and I had never really heard of it,” Paskalides explained.

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On Tuesday, they became mother and daughter, and they’re sharing their story to give hope to others in similar situations.

“ITS OFFICIAL,” Paskalides posted on Facebook on Tuesday. “[T]hank you Amy Sheplak Chamberlain for being our videographer, thank you Linda Griffin for helping us navigate the adult adoption world and most importantly thank you Monyay Paskalides for giving me the gift of being your mama-bear.”

“You gotta know my story to understand why today was one of the biggest days of my life I still can’t find the words to express today but when I get out my feelings lol I will be sending out my thank you’s,” Monyay posted on her Facebook page. “I REALLY JUST GOT ADOPTED!!!!!”

“We’re so happy; we both wanted this for so long,” Paskalides told WFTS.

This Sunday, they’ll both have something to celebrate.

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