An unlikely duo have formed a mother-and-son bond, changing their lives for the better.
Chelsea Haley, 24, appeared in fourth-grader Jerome Robinson’s life as a teacher at his elementary school in Baton Rouge, La., through Teach for America, hoping to make a difference in a low-income school. But there were times when Jerome’s behavior tested her resolve, to the point where she almost thought about quitting, CNN reports.
“At certain points, his behavior got so bad,” Haley told the network, “I thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be a teacher.’”
Yet somehow she ended up gaining the trust of the young boy, to the point where other teachers would send Jerome to Haley’s classroom, where she ensured that he got his work done.
“I got a lot of thankful emails and knocks on my door,” she said.
The last thing on her mind during those times was adopting Jerome and his little brother. Nonetheless, as fate would have it, that’s exactly what happened.
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At the time, Jerome still lived with his biological mother, who was having a hard time, causing Jerome and his then-newborn brother, Jace, to be moved around a lot.
“It was really hard on her after she lost her husband,” Haley said. There was also a little sister who died.
“It was just a combination of tragedy coupled with the other social situations you face when you live in poverty,” she added. “[The boys] spent a lot of time living with their grandparents.”
There were questions about what would happen when Haley finished her two-year Teach for America obligation in 2015, but the school principal convinced her to stay “for Jerome,” and so she did, signing on for another year as a special education teacher.
It was during that year that the teacher said she felt as if God had come to her in a dream, telling her that she would be Jerome’s mother. Haley thought nothing more about it, until the next day as she was supervising Jerome while he took a test.
“He just asked me if he could live with me,” Haley recalled. “I told him I had been feeling the same thing.”
She went to dinner with Jerome, Jace and the boys’ mother. Haley explained to the mother that she was finishing up her last year with the school and was planning to return to Georgia. The boys’ mother made a bold request.
“You can go back,” she told Haley. “But I want you to take Jerome and Jace with you.”
In December 2015, Haley filed papers for permanent custody of Jerome, and then filled out papers to adopt Jace, too.
“You have to be 12 years older than somebody to obtain custody of them, and I am 12 years and three months older than [Jerome],” Haley said.
“I never thought I’d be a single mom at age 24, especially of two boys, one of which was my 12-year-old student, and the other one who was only a year and a half,” Haley added.
She took money out of her retirement plan to make a down payment for a house for her and her two sons. Since then, according to CNN, Jerome has been blossoming while she adjusts to being a middle school teacher in Marietta, Ga.
Jerome “has not gotten any suspensions or anything, which is a huge improvement from life in Louisiana,” Haley said. “He used to fail all of his classes and just didn’t care. Now he has made honor roll both quarters of his eighth-grade year so far.”
Haley has started a GoFundMe, meant to help get Jace into preschool in the fall, with the remainder to go toward the boys’ college education.
“I’ve been super hesitant to accept money because I am a pretty independent person, but I am reading about pride in my Bible study currently, and it has made me realize that ‘performance and achievement’ keep us distant from God. I can’t do it alone,” Haley wrote on the GoFundMe page. “For those of you who know me, you know all I have goes to my boys. Heck, I wear the same three pairs of shoes for every occasion.”