People love superhero teams. It’s easy to cheer for a group of heroes who are forged together by a common purpose, complementing one another’s gifts to accomplish together what they never could on their own. Family Support Services (formerly Project STAR) – part of the broader Child and Family Services team at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh – unites teams like these every day.
“Jay and I were college sweethearts,” explains April Pugh. “We knew we wanted a family and during our years-long struggle with infertility, we decided to foster a child with the intent to adopt. Five years later, we’re a busy family of six!”
“We are blessed to live in a joyfully chaotic house – The Pugh Zoo – with four daughters, ages one to 18,” Jay laughs. “While each of them has become part of our family in a different way, each of them knows that April and I love them all the same.”
April and Jay tell the amazing story of how they had four daughters four ways. Medical assistance helped them have biological daughter Emmalyn, now 8. Ashlee, adopted last year at the age of 17, came to their family as a teenager. Biological daughter Maisie, age 3, was born thanks to in vitro fertilization (IVF), and the adoption of 18-month-old foster child Tonnie, placed with the Pughs directly from the hospital at 12 days old, will be finalized very soon. While Tonnie has never known a day without the rest of the Pughs, Ashlee’s life experience was very different.
“I’m so grateful that we were flexible and open-minded when Chelsea Jacobs from The Children’s Institute first called us about Ashlee,” says April. “We never said we would be willing to foster a teen but Ashlee needed help that The Children’s Institute knew we could provide and now she is our daughter.”
“We saw great potential in Ashlee from the moment we met,” describes Jay. “Our role at first was to provide care and safety, to be her mentors, and to show her what a loving relationship looks like. We let Ashlee set the pace to integrate into our family.”
“April and Jay work incredibly well as a team,” says Chelsea Jacobs, foster care supervisor at The Children’s Institute. “They show by example what love means, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to provide a safe, accepting, and nurturing home for their daughters. They have also embraced a large extended family, which includes Ashlee’s five biological siblings and their foster and adoptive parents, as well as the family who adopted Tonnie’s four biological brothers. In selflessly putting the needs of their children before their own, April and Jay have built a beautiful, healthy, and diverse family.”
With permanency at the foundation of all we do, our Family Support Services help children live and grow within safe, nurturing, lasting families. Licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, our services include foster care and adoption, and county-referred prevention services. To learn more about becoming a resource family, visit amazingkids.org/fostercare. To make a gift in support of these amazing services, please visit amazingkids.org/giving.