As you walk into the Bolton family residence, a young girl’s smile greets you at the door. Her joyful spirit and playful energy never seem to suggest that she is bounded by a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy.
“She has a personality where you just fall in love with her,” says Stephanie Bolton.
Molly Bolton is 7 years old. She is non-verbal, eats from a feeding tube and weighs only 36 pounds. Since the age of 4, Molly has been placed with three different sets of foster parents. Until recently, she has finally found a permanent home of her own with the Bolton family.
The young girl with special needs’ story begins with Jackson County Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer, Margie Carder. The CASA volunteer has been working with Molly to find a suitable family willing to adopt her since she started with the program three and a half years ago.
“I read a story in a newspaper about the great need for CASA volunteers,” says Carder. “I’ve always had a passion for children and thought this would be a great opportunity.”
According to Lauren Fasbinder, a public relations consultant for Jackson County CASA, volunteers advocate for the best interest of abused or neglected children. They also provide information for a judge so they can make the best decision in finding a permanent home for such children.
“We get a feel for what children want and is in their best interest and relay that information to the Jackson County court system,” says Carder. She also says CASA volunteers visit with a child’s school and health care providers into finding out what placement would be most suitable.
Once Carder became a CASA volunteer, her first assignment was then 3-year-old Molly.
“Just before she turned 4 she weighed 22 pounds,” Carder said. According to Carder, Molly’s biological mother was young and not able to properly care for her daughter. “She was not using a feeding tube and Molly had difficulty swallowing,” Carder continued. “Molly wasn’t able to thrive.”
With her biological mother not being about to take care of Molly’s medical needs, Molly was taken under the custody of the Missouri Department of Social Services. “Originally there was a court order trying to reunify Molly with her mother,” explains Carder. “The mother was provided with services that helped with her (Molly’s) needs, but it was not successful.”
Subsequently, Carder was in search of finding a family who would be able to offer a lifelong commitment for young Molly. The next three years Molly went through three sets of foster parents. Molly’s second foster family was located in Excelsior Springs and her school district couldn’t accommodate her disabilities, says Carder. “They bused her back and forth to the Rainbow Center in Blue Springs” Carder added. “And that is where Stephanie and Jason Bolton are employed.”
Page 2 of 3 - Carder says Molly first arrived at the Rainbow Center around August 2012. Stephanie Bolton was Molly’s special education instructor at the facility.
“She is a very happy girl,” says Stephanie speaking of Molly. “And very smart.” The two later formed a bond.
During one particular Individual Education Program meeting, a case worker informed Stephanie about Molly’s living situation. Molly’s infectious smile and pleasant disposition convinced Stephanie in providing something both Molly and Carder were ultimately seeking: A forever family.
Realizing that Molly may have to move out of state due to other families showing interest in adopting her, Stephanie presented the possibility of adding another member to the Bolton Family with her husband, Jason, who also works with special needs individuals at Rainbow Center.
“We prayed a lot and had discussions,” says Stephanie.
As a result, the Boltons applied to adopt Molly and in January of this year began the home-study process. This process is what every adoption agency utilizes prior to giving custody to the adopting family. It consists of extensive interviews, frequent visits from adoption agencies and training to address the needs of the child they are about to adopt, says the Boltons.
“It’s really a gradual transition,” adds Stephanie. “In January, Molly was able to visit with us, then later spent the night on the weekends and eventually stayed with us several days of the week.”
The Boltons also have three children of their own: Joel, 5; Quincy, 3; and Amelia, 17 months. The Bolton parents say the kids immediately grew fond of Molly when she was able to visit.
“I remember Joel going up to her and telling me she was different because of her curly hair and pink shirts,” Stephanie says. “Never did he mention that she was in a wheelchair or she was different because of her skin color.”
On Nov. 22, National Adoption Day, Molly officially became a member of the Boltons when her adoption was finalized by the court with the blessing of Carder from CASA. However, by then she was already considered a Bolton sibling long beforehand, both mom and dad say.
“It’s the best decision we’ve made,” both say Jason and Stephanie. The two parents report Molly’s siblings are very helpful with her as well.
“They all help strap her AFOs (ankle braclets) and want to feed her during meals... with direct adult supervision, of course,” laughs Stephanie.
These days Molly attends Lakeview Woods, a school in Lee’s Summit that meets Molly’s special needs. For Christmas, she requests Hello Kitty items, nail polish and anything with the color pink.
Page 3 of 3 - “She’s very attentive, too,” says Molly’s new mom. “She’ll squeal if any of her sisters or brother are getting into trouble.”
Both Carder and Martha Gershun, Executive Director of Jackson County CASA, say the Boltons are a perfect match for Molly. “We are very excited for Molly’s forever family,” says Martha Gershun, Executive Director of Jackson County CASA.
Gershun pointed out there are currently 2,200 children under court supervision in greater Jackson County. Of those children, as many as 20 percent are from Eastern Jackson County, says Gershun. “Also, very few CASA volunteers are from EJC.”
“We currently have 300 CASA volunteers,” Gershun said. “We could use another 200.”
Fasbinder says Jackson County CASA had reached a milestone this year by serving 1,000 children, a first time in its 30-year history. She adds that becoming a CASA volunteer just requires a background check, training and a desire to help others. No special skills or education are needed. Plus the hours are very flexible with a minimum requirement of visiting a child at least once a month. “You choose how many children you want to work with as well,” says Fasbinder.
“It’s the most incredible thing in the world to ask volunteers to make recommendations that carry so much weight for kids,” says Gershun.
Carder is still a CASA volunteer helping other children. “You make such a difference in these kids’ lives,” she says.
Stephanie Bolton had this to say about adopting a child with special needs, “Molly was able to give us lots of blessings, but I believe Molly has blessed us more than we have to her.”
For information on becoming a CASA volunteer, contact 816-842-2272 or visit www.jacksoncountycasa-mo.org.