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National Adoption Month: Devereux Florida helps young man find forever family


Tyrone Burns, who entered Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida’s foster care program at age 4 with his siblings, asked the family he loved to legally adopt him when he was 26 years old.

“Family is not all about blood, it is who you care for and who you love. Family is everything you need in your life.”
Tyrone Burns, former Devereux Florida foster youth

Tyrone Burns, who entered Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida’s foster care program at age 4 with his siblings, was 15 when he first met Peter and Anne Marie Smith, and says he immediately felt a love that had been missing from his life.

At the time, the Smiths were fostering Tyrone’s two younger brothers.

“The first time I saw them, I thought, ‘Wow.’ They had my two brothers and that’s what I thought I wanted in a family – loving, caring, always there,” said Tyrone. “They didn’t treat my brothers as though they were in foster care. They treated them as their own.”

Healing from trauma

Growing up, Tyrone was placed in more than 15 foster homes due to significant emotional and behavioral challenges he experienced as a result of past trauma.

“I had families that loved me, but I just had so much anger inside of me that I basically put up a wall and told them, ‘Back away. I don’t care for you,’” Tyrone explained. “They wanted to care for me and love me, but I didn’t want it.”

When he moved in with the Smiths, Tyrone says he was hesitant to let his guard down.

“I felt the love, but I still had that wall up,” Tyrone noted. “The moment that changed me was when I got into an argument with my dad (Peter). I said, ‘OK. I guess I’m leaving now. I guess I’m going to the next foster home.’ We sat down with Devereux Florida staff and they asked him what he wanted to do. I spoke up and said, ‘Every time I do something wrong, everybody wants to just kick me out.’ The next day, my mom (Anne Marie) said, ‘Son, I will never leave you. You’re my son. I would never kick you out of my house.’ From that point on, the walls broke down, and I changed my life. I realized I wasn’t going anywhere. This was my family. Everybody loved me. That was the turning point.”

Making it official

As Tyrone grew older and left the foster care system, he continued to turn to the Smiths for support.

Before proposing to his longtime girlfriend, he wanted to make his relationship with the Smiths formal, and asked if they would adopt him. At age 26, Tyrone stood in Orlando Family Court, surrounded by his new family, mentors and Devereux Florida team members.

“He came to us about 10 years ago, and he’s been part of our family ever since,” Peter shared. “The ceremony made it official, but it’s always been official with us.”

Anne Marie explained, “Tyrone had to decide for himself. It’s not something we thought we should force him to do. He had to decide if he wanted to take our name. We’re so excited that he’s officially part of our family.”

A future of possibility

Tyrone is now married and working as an attraction mechanic at Walt Disney World. He says he is forever grateful to the Smiths and to Devereux Florida for helping him become the young man he is today.

“If Devereux never stepped in, I’d be dead, in jail or on the streets. Devereux saved me. I see it now, and I appreciate it,” Tyrone said. “I feel like my past can help a lot of people, when they’re down or when they need somebody to talk to – I know I can help them.”

Devereux Florida Director of External Affairs Lindsey Phillips noted, “We are extremely proud of Tyrone and all he has accomplished. He is a sweet, compassionate young man who is eager to help others with similar experiences. I am honored to have been a part of one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire career – to witness his adoption by the Smiths.”

Become a foster parent today!

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent to a child with emotional, behavioral or cognitive differences, Devereux seeks a diverse pool of foster parents/providers who reflect our diverse clientele. We welcome single, married, partnered or cohabitating individuals to become foster parent/providers.

Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s foster care services, and how to become a foster parent/provider.


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