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Modern Parenthood

'Newborn' 13-year-old: Mom explains viral photo

'Newborn 13-year-old adoptee, Latrell Higgins, said he never had baby photos. His Mom talks about the photos she took and the importance of adopting older kids.

By Lisa SuhayGuest Blogger / February 14, 2013

'Newborn' 13-year-old Latrell Higgins (sitting in chair) with his seven brothers and sisters. Adopted when he was 11, he told his mom, Kelli Higgins, that he never had baby photos. So she posed him for baby photos and they went viral.

Courtesy of Kelli Higgins

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As our family photos languish in dusty boxes, on memory cards, and in computers awaiting our attention, one mom in Florida has snapped our attention to the value of how our photo taking focuses love on our kids. Adoptive mom Kelli Higgins did a fun photo shoot with new son, Latrell, 13, as a “newborn” for a belated birth announcement and a whole lot of thinking has developed as a result.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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Ms. Higgins, a professional photographer in Crestview, Fla., was already the natural mom of five who discovered as she and her husband finalized the adoption of Latrell and his biological sister Chanya, 7, two years ago that she was expecting another child. 

“That was certainly a surprise, but it was just another blessing,” Higgins told the Monitor in a phone interview. “We weren't adopting because we couldn't have babies, it was because I had always known in my heart I would adopt a child.”

Having taken adoption classes to make sure she could do the best job possible, this mom of eight came down to a simple plan, “I was just going to find an older child who was not getting adopted and give them all the love and attention they'd never had.”

Higgins added, “People are so afraid to adopt an older child, especially a boy. They're just children who have been through a bad time. They come to you with nothing. I mean really nothing, no history at all. No pictures of themselves as babies or anything."

So one day, when her 12-year-old daughter Alycia suggested recreating a photo shoot just for Latrell, they launched into it with gusto and giggles – never realizing just how vital what they were doing was for her son.

“We really just giggled our way through the whole shoot,” Higgins said. "Chanya has been in lots of my photo shoots, she's all over my pictures so she wasn't really as interested in having a baby picture as he was. But if she ever asks we'll do it for her too.”

When she took the photos of her “not so newborn” son and made them into a belated birth announcement Higgins touched off a viral social media response and opened the discussion on how vital family photos really are to our kids.

“Really, we weren't thinking at all of how the photos were a need we were filling,” she explained. “It wasn't until I posted them online that the comments came in and I realized ... this was more than just giggles and pictures. This was giving him back a childhood he hadn't known.”

While not wanting to reveal any personal details about her adopted son and daughter, Higgins did say, “They were through multiple foster homes. They went through a lot and they both were really clinging, hugging, taking in all they could get of love and contact.”

Higgins said of Chanya: “From the second she was moved in, she just kept repeating 'Mommy.' Mommy was in every sentence because she was never able to say it to anyone in her life before. It was all foster homes and 'Mrs. Something or Mr. Something.' It broke my heart, something kids take for granted, they never had.”

 

Since the photos went viral online Higgins has been contacted by numerous people involved in their own adoption processes. Some, she said, have even told her they had been planning to adopt a newborn but had changed their minds to adopt an older child instead after reading her story.

“I am always surprised at how afraid people are of adopting an older child, especially a boy,” she said. “I was waiting for him to, like, explode, and have behavioral problems. The problems really disappear as soon as the children realize they're home. When they feel that security then they're just kids who need us. They're just a blessing.”

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