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Adoptive Daughter Thankful for Second Chance

Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume took in nieces after they sustained years of abuse, neglect.

When Fawna Millwood talks about her “Uncle Richard,” she often just calls him “Dad.”

While she says that sometimes confuses her friends, in reality the man she’s referring to, Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume, is both her maternal uncle and adoptive father.

Millwood and her younger twin sisters, Jasmine and Camai, were raised mostly by Reaume after the girls sustained years of abuse and neglect at the hands of their biological parents.

“Our parents were extremely unfit parents,” Milwood said. “They put us in a lot of harm, I would say, growing up in the different circumstances we had to deal with,”

Milwood, now 25, said she spent a majority of her childhood in the foster care system as her parents battled drug and alcohol abuse. She also said she and her sisters sustained physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their biological father.

Reaume, she said, long had served as the patriarch of a large family. He would be the one to send everyone a holiday card, give a eulogy at a funeral or address family matters.

“He’s the leader of the family,” she said.

When she was eight years old, Reaume took Milwood and her sisters in for a year. During this time, she said she went on field trips, went to summer camp and even underwent an appendectomy, all with “Uncle Richard” at her side.

“I opened my heart and home,” Reaume said.

The girls’ biological father, in the meantime, had remarried and the state deemed him fit to parent again in an attempt to reunite the broken family.

“I was hoping it would turn out well,” Reaume said.

The girls’ circumstances, however, took another turn for the worse.

“I can remember all of the weekends we would sit in our bedroom starving and sore from the beatings we had all taken because our principal had stopped by to ‘check on’ our situation Friday after school,” Millwood said.

Reaume said the state again intervened to take the children away. He then stepped in to take sole custody of the children.

He even quit a lucrative job and drastically changed his living arrangements to accommodate his new situation.

Compared with what they had experienced their whole lives to that point, Reaume took an active role in the girls’ lives. Filling the roles of both parents, he attended PTA meetings, took the girls shopping for their prom and homecoming dresses — albeit often with their friends in tow — and pushed them to prepare for college, which before had been a distant dream.

“I wanted to make sure they did have a good life and a chance for success,” he said.

The transition wasn’t entirely smooth, given the circumstances, he said. The girls fostered anger at the system, their biological parents and, Reaume suspects, briefly at him until they entered adolescence.

Fawna said that at first, Reaume's house was designed for a single, working man, not necessarily for a family or children. But, she said, he and the girls adapted accordingly.

He quit a lucrative job at IBM to work from home for delivery company DHL to spend more time with the girls and, under his care, they began to flourish.

As the girls reached driving age, Reaume said, “the bond was starting to get firm.”

It was at this time, Reaume said, that the girls stopped correcting people when they called him their father.

As for why he intervened, Reaume said there had been no guarantees had the girls entered the foster system. Now, he said, the girls are “fine citizens”  who now can live normal, productive lives

Fawna, who now lives in Crystal River, FL, is getting married soon. Walking her down the aisle will be Reaume.

Her sister, Jasmine, is writing a book about her family’s experience. During Jasmine’s research, Fawna said, she found that the girls’ case was among the top five cases of chronic abuse in the state.

“He’s the greatest person I will probably ever know,” she said, “because he is one of the most unselfish people I’ve known in my life. He went above and beyond being an average person. He did something most people can’t.”  

Bob Doroshewitz December 13, 2011 at 01:05 PM
Richard did an amazing job holding this family together and raising these girls. All three are in fact fine citizens, their story never ceases to amaze me. I could not have done that,
Debra Madonna December 13, 2011 at 03:10 PM
The girls went to elementary school with my children. I've had the honor of watching them grow up and watch Richard be a great uncle, father and sometimes a "mother hen" just like the rest of us moms. (Deb Madonna)
John McKay (Editor) December 13, 2011 at 04:32 PM
They definitely had an amazing story to tell and while we hear a lot about how the child services system is sometimes flawed, I think this is one case where the end result was the children living much, much better lives. I'm an uncle and since doing this story I've asked myself if I could do the same thing. I'd WANT to, but COULD I? Fortunately, circumstances haven't made me make that decision.
Deborah Collier December 13, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Our entire family continues to marvel at the depths of Richard's love and compassion, not only for our nieces but towards everyone he knows. I am proud to call him my big brother.
Kristin D. December 13, 2011 at 09:03 PM
Stories like this give me a hope for children in the fostercare system, which is most often a one-way ticket to a lifetime of struggles. What a wonderful man their uncle is to have taken them in during their unfortunate and tumultuous time. I'll read good-news stories like this ANY day of the week! Good luck to the girls! :)
Elizabeth Lewko Treger December 13, 2011 at 11:05 PM
As Richard's former sister-in-law, and one of the girls' aunts, I remain impressed and proud of the bonds these four formed. They became a family within the family. The girls are indeed wonderful young women, and Richard remains the man they can count on to fill the role of Dad that even grown women still need. I'm so happy for all of them that the tragic and potentially disastrous beginning they had was interrupted in such a healthy and stable way. Way to go, all four of you!
Mike Gerou December 14, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Great job Richard! Fawna and Jasmine babysat for us.
Lynne Rohlfing December 14, 2011 at 08:28 AM
What an amazing man. As a result of the journey Fawna, Jasmine and Camai travelled with "Uncle Richard as their life coach, they did not hunger for love, for thoughtfulness, for understanding, for acceptance. For those were but a few of the gifts he unconditionally gave to them. It is because of him these three girls have grown into loving, caring, compassionate young women, secure in knowing their own self-worth. Love and hugs from Aunt Lynne
Kathy Palmer December 20, 2011 at 02:25 AM
I was Jasmine's Fifth grade teacher and remember her as a strong, creative and fiercely protective student. When I read this story, my heart and my eyes filled with tears of joy. I have always wondered what happened to the girls as they basically disappeared. They have been on my mind and in my prayers for years. To know that they found the love, compassion and care that they so richly deserve means that they did get their guardian angel in the form of Richard Reaume. I know that all three of these young ladies will touch the lives of others in their life journey. Jasmine was a wonderful writer as a child so I have no doubt that her story will be well told. Best of luck to this amazing family!
Chris Reaume Anderson December 20, 2011 at 08:40 PM
Richard truly is an amazing man! As his youngest sister I know firsthand how wonderful he really is. Not only did he adopt and love these 3 girls, several years earlier he took me and my 2 daughters in to his home during a very trying time in my life. I hate to think of where my life would have gone if not for him and his kindness. I can't think of a more deserving person of our love and admiration, he truly is one of a kind. I will always be grateful for what he did for my family and second chance he gave to me. All my love, Chris
Jasmine Rose Millwood January 25, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Kathy, was your last name Kennedy when you were teaching? If so, you were my favorite teacher of all time. Thank you for being so empathetic and encouraging to make me strive for success. You accepted me even though I was labeled a "bad kid" and you treated me with respect and love. Thank you, for being there for me right when I needed you the most!
Sharon Marie Leffler April 29, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Richard is truly an amazing man. As the girls grandmother on their father's side I am so sorry. My son was raised with love and the disappointment he has shown with his own children has me devastated. I knew something was wrong but never in my life believed to the extent the brutality that was given to these girls. When I was up there I remember how nasty the stepmother was to me. I shed many tears believe me all I can remember the girls saying is "Don't cry Grandma" I wanted so bad to bring them back to Wisconsin with me but knew I couldn't. I actually thought I was loosing my mind. So many things make sense now. Thank you Jasmine for writing this book. When I mentioned the terrible things that happened to me while I was up there, people thought I was exaggerating. When I was up there the girls were beautiful and I had no trouble with them at all. I loved all three of them so much, and I will always love them. I cannot excuse my son, he will have to live with this for the rest of his life. I feel sorry for him, because I know he is suffering because of this. We don't have any relationship anymore, hopefully God will heal it in the future. In conclusion, I just want to say, Fawna, Jasmine and Camai are 3 of the most beautiful girls I have ever known. I am most proud to know them as my granddaughters. I will love them forever. Thank you Richard. I love you. Grandma Sharon Brad's Mother

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