Love Makes a Family

Published 2:33 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Boys were living in car in Como

By Carrie Stambaugh

In 2018, Felice Ford was a single mother raising her then 15-year-old son Zach Brown.  Working as a caregiver at the North Mississippi Regional Center.  Home life was quiet with just the two of them, maybe even sometimes a little boring her son complained, Ford recalls now.

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That is no longer the case. Over the course of the last three years, their lives have been upended and remade in love. Their house is now home to five growing – four of them growing boys.

A few days before Christmas 2020, Felice Ford formally adopted three sibling brothers – Shunkietrick, 15, Shundarius, 11, and Shuntrez, 6 – all of whom she had been caring for as foster children for the last couple of years. The siblings are biological half-siblings to her son Brown.

“Our house was so quiet before, now we have some action,” laughed Ford. “My oldest son, it’s like joy to his soul. He loves the little baby boy; he loves him to death.”

Love is not in short supply in her home. Ford, the youngest of six children, lost her own mother at age eight. But, she explained, “I didn’t go without being loved.”

Her newly-adopted sons, although they got off to a rough start, won’t now either. Along with her and Brown, the boys have been adopted by Ford’s extended family, “without any hesitation.”

“I’ve been loved so I can spread the love around,” is how Ford explains how she came to be mother to all four of the boys. The love between the four brothers won out over her initial hesitation and fear.

The story of how they all came to be together begins with Shunkietrick who reached out to Brown, asking if Ford would take him in, explaining the boys shared a father.

Brown broached the subject with his mother but she initially refused. But then the calls started from staff and Ford learned that neither one of Shunkietrick’s biological parents were responding to authorities calls. The boy had been abandoned and needed a foster home – or he would likely be sent to a home for boys in Meridian.

“I kind of pushed him away two or three times. Finally, he said, ‘This is my last chance. I know you don’t know me, and I don’t know you but your son is my brother. We want to be together always. If you can just help me out and give us somewhere to stay,” Ford recalled, noting she gets teary now a lot thinking about it. In October 2018, Shunkietrick came to live with Ford and Brown.

As Christmas approached, Ford noticed the boy was sullen and sad. When she asked what was wrong, the boy laid the surprise of a lifetime on her. “He said, ‘I have two younger brothers, they are 3 and 8. They sleep in an abandoned car behind a store in Como,’” she recalled.

They found the boys and alerted the authorities, and soon the boys found their way into Browns loving home too. The trio, Ford has learned, had been living largely alone on the streets for about two years. They had not attended school, pilfered for food out of trash cans and often slept in that abandoned car or an abandoned house.

Sometimes they slept in the restrooms at the nearby lake, hiding from the game warden by standing on toilets when he came in to check the restrooms at night.  No one with social services seemed to realize their plight – even when the oldest was arrested for shoplifting food – until Ford raised the alarm.

For the last two years, Ford has tried to heal their physical and psychological hungers with love, and all the extra help, care and attention she can muster. She took a second job working as a pharmacy tech to bring in extra income. Four growing boys each much more than just one, and the missed schooling has required extra tutoring.

“There is nothing to it but to do it,” she replies, when asked how she has managed. After nearly two years in her home as foster children, officials gave Ford a choice on August, 22, 2020.  Either adopt all the boys herself, or they would be split up and adopted to different families – all that is except the oldest, no one else but Ford “wanted” him, she said.

This time she said “yes,” immediately. “I didn’t have any hesitation about it,” she said. On December 16, 2020, they became a legally-recognized family in the State of Mississippi.

They were a family in love, long before that. “Every time I talk about it, it just raises too much warmth to my heart,” said Ford, “When I see them at night when I cook our supper. They thank me every night when we eat. The little six-year-old, that’s my baby. He says, ‘Momma you’re the best.’”

And like every mother, Ford wants nothing but the best for all her boys. “I tell them, get their education. They deserve the best. They deserve everything, and they are working very hard. They are very determined kids, that they are going to be somebody in life. I’m pushing them. I want the very best for them,” she said, adding, “Every child deserves a second chance. Sometimes a lot of kids need a little guidance in life. They need a foundation, a strong behind them pushing. If you ever want to be something in life be a foster or adopted parent. They need us. So many of them are out in the streets and they don’t have anybody. Each one can reach one,” she added.

Her family is determined to reach more than one. They now spend their nights putting together Superhero boxes for other children in foster care. The organization Together We Rise created the project, which distributes the boxes to agencies across the country.  Ford said her boys received them while in care, often they contained stuffed animals as well as stress relieving activities for the children. They helped the boys to “get over the hump” while transitioning into her home, she said, “It helped them along. Now my boys, they want to participate in doing those.”

To donate, or create your own Superhero Boxes visit:

Pictured are (from left) Shunkietrick Nunley, Chancery Judge Vicki Daniels, Shundarius Nunley, Felice Ford, Shuntrez Nunley, and Zach Brown.