Celebrating 100: A surprise adoption brings a bundle of good.
State Farm® family comes through for couple adopting newborn grandson.
For our 100th Anniversary, we are updating some of our most inspiring and extraordinary State Farm stories, helping to tell the story of the people who make up this great company. This is just one of the stories you’ll see leading to our 100th Anniversary Celebration in June 2022. This story was originally published on Dec. 16, 2020.
Are you sitting down?
If that’s how a conversation starts, it doesn’t usually end well. But in Shauntona Wagner’s case, it ended with four pounds, eight ounces of tenacity named Benjamin.
Shauntona, a Texas-based State Farm employee, was working from home in mid-October when she got a call from her son-in-law’s mother with some shocking news.
UPDATE: Ben, who just turned one, continues to thrive! Wonderfully chunky 23 pounds, he is cognitively right on par; his gross motor skills are a smidge behind but he is couch shuffling so hopefully his first steps are any day now. He’s a happy toddler who loves to clap and play peekaboo.
Her oldest daughter and son-in-law were arrested. Her daughter was transferred from jail to a hospital where she had, and then left, a baby.
No one knew the couple was expecting. The couple both suffer from drug addiction and Shauntona hadn’t heard from them in years.
Shauntona’s 6-year-old, autistic, non-verbal grandson was being raised by the other grandma, who had recently lost her husband. She told Shauntona she could not take on another child.
“I knew right then and there we had to take the baby. But we thought about it for a couple of days as a family then reached out to the social worker,” Shauntona said. “Born premature, and drug exposed, he experienced withdrawals, which are especially painful for newborns."
“The very first day we spent with Benjamin he improved drastically. He got back to birth weight and never needed oxygen,” Shauntona continued. “We were expecting him to stay another week in the hospital after we started spending time with him, but he was released two days later.”
The Wagners brought their new grandbaby home just before Halloween; after two weeks in the NICU. Their youngest child was 18 so they no longer had any of the necessary baby items. They quickly bought diapers, a few onesies and a pack ‘n’ play.
Thankfully their State Farm family came to the rescue. From coast to coast, colleagues past and present were busy online shopping for the rest of the baby essentials.
“It was a complete surprise! Not just current teammates, but people I hadn’t worked with in years gave gifts,” Shauntona shared. “We were so touched by their kindness, we took four Giving Tree wish lists to keep paying it forward.”
Shauntona is also eternally grateful for Benjamin’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and the Warren Center, which serves children and families impacted by developmental delays and disabilities. The Wagners hope to adopt Ben legally when he turns 1. Until then, he has a volunteer CASA advocating for his needs, the specialists at the Warren Center and his grandparents.
State Farm employees are among the nearly 100,000 CASA volunteers in the U.S. One is Patti McKendry, also of the Dallas area.
“We meet with the child, the schools and hospitals, and provide guidance to the courts and judges on the best plan for the child,” Patti said. “Given what we learn and experience, it can be quite emotional at times but it is so rewarding to be that one person who is solely concerned and focused on that child.”
Patti says the training is around 30 hours, but it’s a manageable commitment. She has shared her CASA story with others inside and outside of State Farm and looks to inspire others to become CASAs. Patti and Shauntona hope others will be motivated so more children can benefit from CASA services.
With a CASA by their side, children are half as likely to re-enter foster care, more likely to succeed in school and more likely to find a safe, permanent home.
“We've settled into our sleepless, yet beautiful routine with our little guy,” Shauntona shared. “And he’s thriving! He's grown from 4.5 pounds to 7 pounds in three weeks.”
Sometimes, it really does take a village.