Adoption, Religion and Marriage: Life Outside of T-bird Nation

Most of SUU sees Andrew (Dewey) Leavitt as the mixed-matched Presidential Ambassador who sometimes lands a joke in his projects for the University Journal. To the Leavitt family, Dewey is the extremely independent and intelligent older brother of five and a future husband to his high school sweetheart.

Pregnant, but Different: Adoption

Dewey is the oldest brother of adoptive siblings Christophe (Toph) and Mae, and biological siblings Ben and Ethan. His place as the older brother is filled with carpools to sporting events, photographing dances and tutoring when necessary. With one adoptive sibling from the Democratic Republic of Congo and another from Taiwan, people may ponder as Dewey and his siblings walk into a room. But for the eccentric Leavitt family, the diversity has become a happy normal.

Dewey said the process of adopting his siblings was similar to childbirth—minus the birthing part. His parents first applied for his siblings, then they began to get monthly photo updates. Dewey described the process almost like obtaining an ultrasound. Unlike birth, right before the adoptions were finalized, Dewey’s parents left to the east coast to adopt his siblings.

Dewey said for his mom, the adoption was always something she wanted to do, but for his dad, it was a sudden call-to-action. Though Toph was an older adoption, Mae was a baby during the process.

“It didn’t really feel all that different from what I experienced with my other siblings,” he said. “I was very young with my other brothers, so I never quite grasped their birth process. Adoption is my only real reference to how you get kids into a family. If you were to ask a young Mae how a family got babies, she would explain that a mom and dad got on an airplane, flew to another country and brought back a baby.”

Though Toph and Mae’s lives may be different at school, when it comes to racism, Dewey, who is the white “majority,” has only had a few unique experiences in regard to his siblings.

“A show was on and they called someone ‘yellow’ on the show,” he said. “I had to explain to them, ‘Yeah, like, Toph you are black. And Mae, sometimes people call Asian people yellow. That’s what they call people of your color.’ It’s not like it was a secret that they were adopted. It’s obvious Toph is black.”

Dewey then joked that no one else but Toph had the same experiences with Cocoa Butter, and said his mom had to navigate different hairstyles to meet Toph’s hair needs.

Dewey’s adoptive siblings came with other challenges that some may not face with biological siblings. For many adoptive children, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is very common. According to, RAD can come from extreme cases of trauma and neglect and causes children to become emotionally withdrawn toward their caregivers. For Mae, it comes in aggressive tendencies, but for Toph, it comes in passive aggression. Dewey explained the changes in parenting or teaching that come with having children with RAD in the home, and said RAD parenting is heavily focused on restitution, which he put this way: “You wronged this person, then you apologize and clean their yard.”

“It’s a unique way of parenting,” Dewey said. “RAD kids have to have some form of control. Sometimes this is an aggression. Sometimes it’s passive aggression. In the future, when and if I have my own children, I’ll probably parent in a very similar fashion. My reference to parenting is based on RAD, which to me really works for any kid.”

For more about Dewey, check back to the multi-media project, Life Outside T-bird Nation, in April.

Story & Photo By
Samantha Burfiend Sherrill