Photo cutline: Adoption has filled the Ray and LeeVi Big Crow family with additional love in the last three years. The family includes, from left, Tasha, Ray, with Allison, LeeVi, with Abbigail, and Livia.
By Marj Frew
With November being a month of giving thanks for many things in our lives, it seems appropriate that November is also National Adoption Month. Many families in the Bennett County area have been touched by the blessing of adoption, in a wide range of situations, from infants, to teens, from local to international adoptions.
One such family is the Ray and LeeVi Big Crow family of Martin. Their family includes their own two young daughters, Abbigail, 3, and Allison, 1, and their two adopted daughters, Livia and Tasha Hiland, who are now 20 and 19 years old.
Their journey to adoption began in Newell, where LeeVi was teaching, and was also the cheerleading and dance coach. At that time, sisters Livia and Tasha were high school students who were involved with the cheer team at Newell.
LeeVi reflected on their family coming to the adoption process. “Our situation is a little non-traditional. I think most people spend time contemplating that decision, and take their time doing research, and go through a process to become an adoptive family. We did that process, but it wasn’t until after we already had at least one of the girls, Livia, in our home.”
“The situation was so different, and happened so fast, we didn’t have time for that process. Throughout the time that I knew them at Newell School, they were in and out of foster care. They transferred schools in 2015 but remained in touch with me. In March of 2016, Livia needed a place to stay, and started as a kinship placement with us. It escalated in less than six months to where she was permanently with us.”
“Livia found her Forever Family with us in May of 2016.”
Shorty after, the family moved back to Martin, and Ray and LeeVi also became licensed Foster Parents. In May of 2017, Tasha came to live with the family, also as a kinship agreement. In September of 2017, she was adopted into her Forever Family with Ray and LeeVi.
“As we’ve gone through this in the past few years we have learned a lot about the social services and the foster care and adoption system. The story we want to share is that I was their cheer coach at Newell before them coming to us. They knew me and were comfortable with living with us to start the process to become part of our family.”
“Becoming foster parents was something both Ray and I had always considered. In the past we had always been treated wonderfully by our extended family, and that has been very influential in learning to “love big.” We wanted to take that experience into our own family and open up our home and our lives. It has been challenging and rewarding, but mostly rewarding.”
“The experiences we have had with fostering have been wonderful. People think, ‘I could never do that.’ It’s challenging, but it isn’t hard. I assure people that they can do it. It’s about understanding that kids’ needs are greater than yours.”
“It’s kind of funny to look back, when we literally had a kid show up on our doorstep. Our family went from just Ray and I to the three of us, to the four of us, and now we have grown exponentially. In three and a half years we have gone from zero to four kids.”
“It’s wild, but we definitely wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re proud of our family. We’re proud of Tasha and Livia and how they have overcome their own adversities and have become great people.”
Livia and Tasha both graduated from Bennett County High School, Livia in 2017, and Tasha in 2018. Livia is currently living in Sioux Falls and pursuing a medical degree from Southeast Technical Institute. Tasha is currently living in Martin and works at the Bennett County Hospital and Clinic. Their brother, Chad, was placed with the family for a short time, but was better served with another family. He is still in close contact with his sisters and their family.
“Even though we became licensed foster parents for the sake of Livia and Tasha, we felt it was our calling to continue this work and help other children in need. Since Tasha graduated in May 2018 we have fostered four other children and are currently fostering another. It is hard to know if we will be blessed with any more permanent family members, but our hearts and home are open to the possibility.”
This is just one story from our area, about the lifetime blessing of adoption. LeeVi put it into perspective quite well, “I don’t feel like what we are doing is anything special or amazing. We are simply doing what we would hope others would do for children in need. We try to be helpful and be kind. That is our mantra.”