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From Rocky Start to Bright Future: King’s Journey to Adoption

by Lorin Hancock , Program Officer, Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services
King Weatherspoon and adoptive mother, Marlene Jackson exchange a hug at King’s adoption hearingNovember 2018, National Adoption Month, was a great success, full of fun activities and inspiring families. More than 100 children have been adopted in Cuyahoga County this year, all with heart-touching stories. But there’s one adoption story from earlier this year that stands out.

2018 was a monumental year for Cuyahoga County residents King Weatherspoon and Marlene Jackson: they officially became a family. Marlene, who had fostered dozens of for speech and debate. But King’s road to adoption was anything but straightforward.

When King Weatherspoon was removed from his home in 2011 it was a national story. King was only eight-years-old and weighed more than 200 pounds, a condition the county determined to be the result of severe medical neglect. Many in the media did not agree, arguing that King’s removal from his home was government overreach that would ultimately do more harm than good.

King went into foster care, then lived with a relative, losing about 50 pounds before he was returned to his mother. Once back with his mom, the weight came back, and then some.

By the time King was 12, his weight had skyrocketed to almost 500 pounds. His severe mobility issues left him isolated and depressed. He attended school online and was failing every one of his classes.

The Division of Children and Family Services again tried working with King’s mother, but eventually his social worker, Mallory McConnell, determined that King could not survive in his current environment. King was removed from his home a second time. That’s when he ended up with Marlene.

From that point on, King’s life changed. Marlene had him moving, eating well, and socializing. He lost weight, his grades improved, and his teachers glimpsed his real potential. He set his sights on the prestigious Hawken school, applied and was accepted, and continued to flourish.

When Marlene asked King if he was interested in adoption, he didn’t hesitate. And finally, in May, a judge made it official.

King is a young man with an incredibly bright future; a far cry from the immobilized and isolated boy of a few short years ago. King is proof that when all the right forces combine—his own tenacious spirit, a new mother’s care and love, and a social worker who refused to give up—even the most dire cases can become the most inspiring.