A Virginia couple has welcomed their baby nephew into their home after he faced alleged physical abuse at the hands of his birth parents to the point that the 7-month-old was hospitalized for his injuries.
Michelle Harris Templeton, 31, and her husband, Nathan, 32, decided to choose a new name for their nephew, calling him Carter and giving him a brand-new start to life.
“[T]his is just what I’m meant to do,” Michelle, herself a mom of two, told People.
Baby Carter is the son of Michelle’s estranged brother. His story is an echo of the past for Michelle. One of four siblings, she was also legally adopted by her aunt at just 3 days old, as her birth mother couldn’t cope with raising all of her siblings. Now, years later, she credits her aunt for giving her “the absolute best life.”
Michelle and Nathan, who run a wedding photography and videography company together, were informed that Carter had been airlifted to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in October 2020, as he temporarily stopped breathing.
The baby was resuscitated but was diagnosed with multiple leg fractures just days later and placed in casts. His parents maintained that Carter had fallen off the couch.
However, Michelle remained skeptical. “I thought, ‘That’s weird because I have two girls and they’ve fallen off things, but never fractured a bone,’” she explained. “It just escalated from there.”
Carter had sustained a brain injury, inducing seizures. A retinal hemorrhage in his right eye had impaired his vision. Monitoring the baby in the ICU with a ventilator and an EEG machine, doctors speculated that his extensive injuries were concurrent with either a car accident or abuse.
Carter had never been in a car accident.
Upon seeing photos of a handprint on Carter’s face, Michelle gathered paperwork and hot-footed it to Pittsburgh. “I lost it,” she said of her arrival at the ICU and witnessing the baby’s little body attached to all the wires and machines. “I just knew, I’ve got to do whatever to get this taken care of because I couldn’t see him going with anybody else.”
Carter’s birth parents, Andre Sheffey, 33, and his partner, Savannah Grove, 34, were taken to Clearfield County Prison in Pennsylvania on $100,000 bail. Both were charged in connection to Carter’s injuries, WJAC reported.
Desperate to keep her nephew out of the foster care system, Michelle made three court appearances to lobby for custody. Recalling them as “the most stressful three weeks of my life,” and “extremely draining,” Michelle credits her judge for the final verdict.
Carter went home with Michelle and Nathan.
Carter, whose casts were removed, quickly became part of the Templeton family. Welcoming the baby into the fold with a photoshoot, Michelle shared the pictures on Facebook ahead of Christmas 2020.
Carter had not yet regained his sight, was taking daily seizure medication, and had a gastrostomy tube in his stomach. But he could breathe on his own, eat via his mouth, and had a naturally happy temperament.
The family remains optimistic that Carter may regain his sight.
In light of Michelle and Nathan putting their business on hold to care for Carter, The M Harris Team launched a GoFundMe page in their name to help ease the financial burden. To date, the fund has raised almost half of its $15,000 goal.
“Whatever struggles we may face, we’re going to get through them,” Michelle told People.
“It’s been incredible,” she added. “My girls wanted me to have another child and I was like, ‘Absolutely not,’ so they’re super excited to have a little brother.
“With me being adopted, I feel like you make your family. It doesn’t matter what blood is running through,” she reflected.
In welcoming their “perfect-fit” baby into their home and hearts, Michelle and Nathan hope to provide the best life for Carter, the way Michelle’s aunt once did for her. They have vowed to love the baby boy unconditionally and eternally.
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