Choosing to Change Children’s Lives

This single mom with one biological child has created a forever family for six adopted girls and boys.

Dominique, Faith, DaShawn, Laverne, Parker, and Jayda Freeman

Laverne Freeman, 58, epitomizes the essence of fostering love for children. She has always loved children. Even in high school, she was the person carrying someone’s kids around on her hip. 

Freeman also spent countless hours helping her biological aunt, who over 30 years fostered more than 100 children. Their tragic stories tore Freeman’s heart to pieces. 

“Even in utero, they have experienced more baggage than I would have in my whole lifetime,” laments Freeman.

To compound her sadness, Freeman was informed she could not conceive children. That’s when she turned to her aunt for advice about fostering. 

“Do you think I’d be any good?” Freeman asked her aunt, who aptly replied, “You’re doing it now.” 

Freeman took her mandate of parenting seriously. For over 20 years, she opened her home and heart to more than 50 kids, ultimately becoming a foster, biological and adoptive parent while single. 

“I wanted to make a difference,” says Freeman. 

Faith and Laverne Freeman

At times, Freeman has housed eight children at once. She’s cared for children from diverse countries on different continents. Whenever her family ventures into public, she admits to getting a kick out of bystanders speculating about the dynamics of her multiracial family.

“I don’t see color,” notes Freeman. “I see a kid who needs somebody. Who needs love.” 

Freeman committed herself to giving children a family, a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear and a parent concerned about their education and extracurricular activities. With her, they would be loved, cherished and lifted.

Early in her fostering, Freeman had only one condition: gender. She only wanted girls, and she clothed them with love, barrettes and frilly dresses. 

Corey Freeman, photo courtesy of LaVerne Freeman

Corey, her first foster boy, would also become her first adopted child. At 15 months old, Corey needed a loving home. Freeman initially rejected the request on gender alone. But the caseworker pressed, “Ms. Freeman, he needs you,” recalls Freeman. 

Like all of Freeman’s foster children, Corey required special care. In his case, Corey was born with epidermolysis bullosa, a rare skin condition, making his skin as “brittle as a butterfly.” 

“Corey cried constantly, and bath times were the worst times because the water would burn him,” explains Freeman.

He was often in pain. His skin would detach easily from his body, which required daily bandaging and frequent trips to UF Health Shand’s Hospital. 

“I don’t know if I felt sorry for him or if I fell in love with him first,” states Freeman. Regardless, she and her family, especially her aunt, bonded with the boy and, finally, at age 6, Corey was adopted into Freeman’s family. 

“He is my heart,” exclaims Freeman of Corey, who is now 27, has his own home and works as a warehouse team lead at McLane Company, a national distribution business that has a center in Ocala.

Shortly after adopting Corey,

Imani Gibson, photo courtesy of LaVerne Freeman

Freeman had another surprise. She gave birth to her only biological child, a daughter, Imani Gibson. Gibson, 22, recently graduated from Liberty University, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, and teaches first grade at a Title I school in Virginia.

The love between Corey and Freeman is mutual. Corey highly regards his mother, praising her for her selfless nature and wishing that his aunt, who has since passed away, would still see it.

“My one wish for my mom would be for my aunt to see what an amazing person she turned out to be,” Corey offers. “She was such a key figure in everyone’s lives, and I know that if she was still here and was seeing my mom be the woman that she is today, that would make my mom very happy.” 

Twelve-year-old Faith was the second child adopted into the Freeman household. Faith arrived when she was 3 months old and was never supposed to walk or talk. She trembled due to the withdrawals associated with neonatal abstinence syndrome. 

“With lots of love and God, my baby walks, talks and does whatever she wants,” Freeman shares with exuberance. Faith is in the seventh grade today, playing volleyball and, according to her mother, “she is as good as gold.”

Next to be adopted were biological brothers DaShawn, 9, and Parker, 8. Both were born with addictions, resulting in behavioral problems. DaShawn, who was placed in Freeman’s care at 1 year old, initially had some issues in public school but Freeman now boasts about how much better he is doing. 

“He reads, loves math and science,” she shares, and plays two sports. 

Parker, who joined the Freeman family at 2 weeks old, also shows improved behavior. He pays attention to details and participates in football and basketball with his brother.

Jayda, 4, and Dominique, 3, are Freeman’s youngest children. Jayda arrived one night at 11pm in need of emergency shelter. Freeman thought she was receiving a “2-year-old” girl, but Jayda was only 1 year old and needed diapers and bottles. Freeman agreed to keep the baby for only that evening, but there was no giving her away.

“Jayda stole my heart,” says Freeman.

Consequently, when Jayda’s birth mother had another baby, Dominique, Freeman agreed to welcome her into her home as well. Dominique was only 2 days old when she arrived in Freeman’s care, ensuring that the sisters remained together. 

“It is hard to give up somebody you love. I had to give these girls memories, life lessons and their basic needs,” Freeman shares. “If they were to leave me, it could be detrimental to them.” 

Still, she did not take the decision to adopt again lightly. She considered her age and mortality as reasons not to. Nevertheless, giving her children siblings was the least selfless decision to make. Plus, she had the support of her other children. 

“For me, personally growing up with foster siblings was amazing,” Corey offers. “I grew a bond with each one of them and loved each one of them as if they were my family. Eventually, five of them became my family, and I’m beyond thankful for them and my mom, making the decision to adopt them and bring them into her home.” 

Managing the costs and time associated with raising a family requires robust support systems. As an adoptive parent, Freeman receives a stipend for each child, but she works full time to make ends meet. With five school-aged children, there are always needs. Freeman is constantly in motion, shifting from the older ones playing sports to her little girls cheering. 

“It’s never a dull moment,” she says. 

Sometimes, the routine exhausts her, but says God gives her “strength.” She also leans on the support of family and church members.

“The love I receive from my Meadowbrook Church family is unbelievable,” says Freeman. 

She praises the executive pastor, Sean Forte, and friends like Todd and Lisa Panzer. 

“They are people who love us for us,” Freeman says, then tears up when she adds, “My kids go without nothing.” 

Laverne, Dominique, DaShawn, Faith, Parker and Jayda Freeman

The Panzers met Freeman when their children, Dillon and Imani, respectively, were classmates at Meadowbrook Academy. Like Freeman, they were also fostering children and so the three became “fast friends,” celebrating their children’s milestones together and, at times, watching each other’s kids. 

“She has always shown such love for the children who have gone through her home as a foster parent and then as an adoptive parent,” explains Todd Panzer. “But it takes community, and community is family, and family is whoever loves and supports you, and we are a part of that family for her.” 

Freeman instills in her children the value of generosity, reminding them to give back to others as they have been fortunate to receive much. They are taught to love God and people and to help anyone who needs assistance. Whether it is a homeless person outside of Sam’s Club or a street musician strumming a tune for donations, her children are observant and eager to offer help. 

“It is just outstanding how she gets it done,” states Panzer of Freeman’s ability to be present for all her children. “Her heart is bigger than Marion County.”

In May 2023, Freeman officially retired from fostering and adopting. Yet, she has not stopped opening her arms and home to those she has fostered. She loves hearing from them on her birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas or any time they send a text asking, “What are you cooking?” which sends her running to the store to buy more food.

She encourages those feeling the call to become future adoptive or foster parents to contact the Florida Department of Children and Families. 

“You are changing lives one child at a time,” Freeman remarks, highlighting that when anyone, regardless of marital status, extends love to a child, “children who have never smiled will smile.” OS

The Marion County office of the Department of Children and Families is located at 1100 SW 38th Avenue, Ocala. To learn more, call (352) 330-5803 or go to

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