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Reggie Rivers, Former NFL Running Back

Our guest Reggie Rivers played six seasons as a running back for the Denver Broncos. He is now the president of his own business consulting firm, and a highly successful corporate motivational speaker.

And in this 100th episode of ADOPTION NOW, Reggie shares with host April Fallon that he and his wife Stephanie originally did not want children. It wasn’t until Stephanie’s sister had a son, and she began struggling with addiction, that he considered becoming a father.

Reggie says that when he was about 17 years old, he recognized the difficulties his parents faced with raising five kids. Certain that he would never want children, Reggie decided to not have any children.

Fast forward to his 30’s when Reggie met his wife Stephanie, and he learned that she didn’t want children as well. It seemed a perfect match for both of them. Once Stephanie’s nephew Malik was introduced into their lives, their dynamic started to shift dramatically.

Malik was the son of Stephanie’s sister, and he was born into an environment of addiction. Malik’s mother, Ebony, struggled with drugs, Stephanie and Reggie knew the situation for Malik was getting more and more dire. So, they intervened.

Reggie shares his thought process at the time:

“You know what, we didn’t plan to have any kids, but I think God might be telling us that we’re supposed to have Malik.”

As this belief solidified, Stephanie and Reggie would soon fly to Utah to sign a power of attorney, and thus begin the long journey of becoming Malik’s guardian. By the age of three, Malik was fully immersed in the Rivers family!

When April asked about Malik’s emotional state when he was first welcomed into their home, Reggie says that in retrospect he was a little bit detached, but also one of the most happy-go-lucky children imaginable.

Once Malik started to experience a consistent household and could count on Reggie and Stephanie for their parental stability, he started to exhibit normal emotions for his age. 

Before he was given a stable environment, Malik wouldn’t hide when the doorbell rang, or he would hesitate before sauntering off towards the playground. After being welcomed into the Rivers household, he started exhibiting normal behaviors.

As April states, Malik was starting to trust for the first time in his life. April also mentions that when a child goes from caregiver to caregiver they are never really grounded in a solid support system. As a result, it becomes difficult for them to build trust.

When asked about the paperwork required and the guardianship process, Reggie says it was complicated and tense because Malik’s birth father was soon involved.

Once Reggie and Stephanie took Malik in, the birth father had no qualms about the decision. However, a year later, his tone was markedly different. He wanted Reggie and Stephanie to send Malik back, but they refused.

Reggie mentioned that they wanted the birth father to sign the necessary guardianship documents so that Malik could live with Reggie and Stephanie. This took a year of coaxing, but he eventually came around and signed the document. April asked if the birth father ever came and visited during this time. Reggie states: 

“Yes, he did come and visit, and you know, we were scared to death. He’s a pretty tough guy. You know, he’s been in and out of jail…I can say this stuff now. We have a great relationship with him now. He has matured tremendously.”

It was a tense time for Reggie and Stephanie, but in the end, Malik’s birth dad is still a big part of his life. They talk and interact frequently! 

And shortly after, about a year of having acquired guardianship of Malik, Malik started calling Stephanie and Reggie “mom” and “dad”. 

To this day, despite the tense earlier times and the exhausting efforts, they all are very close and continue to be nothing but happy about Malik’s role in making their lives so much better. For more on Malik’s story, including details on the battle for his adoption rights, his current relationship with Reggie and Stephanie, and an update on his teenage swagger, listen along!

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