Friday, March 23, 2018
News Roundup

A childless woman and a boy in foster care make a permanent connection


In some ways, they were an unlikely pair: a teenage black boy who had grown up in a dozen foster homes and a 40-year-old white woman who had believed becoming a mother would come easily.

He had two failed adoption attempts. She had two failed marriages.

But in a courtroom packed with friends and relatives this week, they got their wish.

"Who do we have here?" asked Judge Katherine Essrig.

"Tammy Curtis. Mom," she said.

"Ron. Son," he said.

Ronderik had been in foster care since he was a day old. He lived in Brandon, South Tampa and St. Petersburg, where he had a bicycle until he moved yet again. Last year, he went to Mann and Madison middle schools.

Several watching in the courtroom had played a part in the match. The Children's Board Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay had featured Ronderik in their photographic exhibit that roams from churches to malls, events and museums.

The gallery started in 2005 and features about 100 adoptable children each year. More than 40 percent find homes. But older minority kids who have been in foster care a long time, like Ronderik, are often considered unadoptable.

Freddie Brinson, a recruitment specialist with Camelot Community Care, has been looking for parents for Ronderik for about five years.

"African-American males over 7 are absolutely the hardest," she said. She could see Ronderik turning 18 with no family.

She asked Tammy Curtis her standard first question: If you had your choice today, what is the age of the child you would want?

Curtis said she was open to a girl or a boy — maybe 3, 4 or 5 years old.

Brinson had gently expanded Curtis' age range.

Brinson doesn't attend every adoption, but this one was special. "It's hard to say what it was about her," Brinson said of Curtis, other than that she was serious.

"Some people come with an attitude of 'Let me try this one or that one,' " Brinson said. "These kids are real people with real feelings."

Curtis' single status and different race weren't roadblocks in adopting Ronderik.

Her brother, Jeff Curtis Jr., and father, Jeff Curtis Sr., are on board. When she was conceived, her parents married at 16. Curtis grew up in Temple Terrace. She always thought she would have a family of her own, but doctors told her she couldn't have a baby. Last November, fresh out of a relationship, she decided to adopt from foster care. She told her father it might take two years.

He said: "Tam, I know you better than that. You're going to adopt the first kid you meet."

Sure enough, she met Ronderik in April at a Junior League of Tampa Kids Connect event.

They bonded near a petting zoo over a rabbit.

"I stalked him for the rest of the day," she said in court this week.

They played laser tag.

"I knew right there and then," she said. "That was my son."

On June 20, her 40th birthday, they had their first unsupervised get-together, dinner and a movie.

They learned they both loved Disney and music, especially Elvis.

They both love to take pictures.

Every day, he texts her brother in Los Angeles, usually with a picture from his day.

"They're like peas in a pod," said Jeff Curtis Jr.

In August, he moved into her Land O'Lakes home. He started seventh grade nearby. He quit taking the psychotropic drugs he was prescribed in foster care and gained 10 pounds in three months.

Curtis brought two gifts for Ronderik. One, a Bible, has his new name stitched into the cover: Ronderik Jeffrey Curtis. He had taken a new middle name in honor of his new uncle and grandfather.

The other was a crown. She likes to celebrate her own birthday in a big way, with a tiara.

"You're my king," she told him.

She put it on his head. It was his 15th birthday.

A lawyer asked if he understood adoption was permanent. He can't change his mind even if he got really upset.

The judge asked if Curtis was ready to assume all the rights and responsibilities.

They both said yes.

She wiped her eyes.

He let out a big sigh.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.

USF’s McClanahan finally allows an earned run…and then some

USF’s McClanahan finally allows an earned run…and then some

TAMPA — One of the most improbable streaks in USF baseball history was snapped Friday evening.Or more specifically, crushed.Bulls left-handed ace Shane McClanahan, who hadn't allowed an earned run in 31 2/3 innings this season, got a rude retur...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
20 years of the Rays’ brushes with ‘celebrity’

20 years of the Rays’ brushes with ‘celebrity’

ST. PETERSBURG — Some Rays, and their spouses, have been known for more than baseball. Some celebrities have shown up to watch the Rays play. Here are 20 of those connections:• The Rays were featured prominently in the 2002 Disney movie T...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Rowdies hope to match last season’s home dominance

ST. PETERSBURG — It will be hard to expect the Rowdies to top their home performance from last season, but that's exactly what captain Joe Cole has in mind."We lost one game here last year. And we want to improve on that," Cole said Friday. "No...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Former Derby Lane kennel owner Jan Alderson passes away

ST. PETERSBURG — On Jan Alderson's 60th birthday, she received an unexpected surprise.Her telephone rang with the news that Fiesta Mercury had just scored his most impressive career victory at Derby Lane — a 15-length romp in a Grade A sp...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Land O’Lakes pitches, hits way to Farm Bureau Classic championship

BROOKSVILLE — The game plan for Land O'Lakes is pretty simple. The Gators rely on their pitching and defense, and hope they can score enough runs to win.That strategy worked during the Farm Bureau Classic this week, especially in the final agai...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘Death’ for cop-killer is a mistake. He gets life in prison.

‘Death’ for cop-killer is a mistake. He gets life in prison.

LARGO — The man who shot and killed Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek in 2014 will spend the rest of his life in prison.That was the sentence 12 jurors chose for Marco Antonio Parilla, Jr. on Friday after two weeks of testimony and four ho...
Updated: 2 hours ago

High school scoreboard for March 23

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 2, Crystal River 1
Updated: 2 hours ago
Largo officer shoots, kills motorist who drove at him, police say

Largo officer shoots, kills motorist who drove at him, police say

LARGO — One man was dead and an officer was left injured on Friday night in what police officials called a "violent, explosive situation."The episode started just before 6 p.m. Largo police Officer Matthew Steiner pulled over a black Nissan sedan at ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Jon Cooper and John Tortorella: A tale of Lightning contrasts

Jon Cooper and John Tortorella: A tale of Lightning contrasts

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he has met John Tortorella only a few times.But Cooper has learned plenty about Tortorella from players on the latter's 2004 Stanley Cup-winning Lightning team, including Vinny Lecavalier and  Marty St. Louis.So w...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Scott signs 70 bills into law

Scott signs 70 bills into law

Gov. Rick Scott signed more than 70 bills into law on Friday, including one that would limit child marriages, another that aims to fix Pinellas County’s troubled construction licensing board and still another asking Congress to make daylight saving t...
Updated: 3 hours ago