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Rock of Support

One family, one foster child



Photograph by Rana Faure

Danny Velasquez Guarnieri, age 19, can hardly believe his good fortune. When he called Jodi Rosen from the Philippines and asked his former weekend foster mom if he could move permanently into his old room in the Rosens’ North Salem estate, the answer was an enthusiastic “yes.”

“We always told Danny we were only a phone call away,” says Jodi, a mother of four who looks like she belongs on the pages of a fashion magazine. “Sometimes you open up your door just a little, and then it gets wider.”
The Rosens formed a bond with Danny soon after he entered the foster-care system and was living at Abbott House, a group home in Bedford Hills. He was ten at the time. He had been held back in school and his records revealed behavior problems. But things took a positive turn when Jodi Rosen completed a nine-week course on foster parenting and went looking for a way to make a difference in a young life through the Bridge Program.

Danny started spending weekends with the Rosens, blending into their affluent home, which includes four children and a multitude of horses, sheep, dogs, and friends. “I learned my manners from hanging around their house,” says Danny. He soon blossomed in all areas, becoming an all-state wrestler after learning the sport in sixth grade at Fox Lane. “I got into wrestling to get my anger out and to stay away from trouble,” he adds.

The Rosens gave Danny all the things that a supportive and loving family could provide, but Jodi knew that it was in Danny’s best interest to be adopted before he “aged out” of the system. “Say the word ‘adoption’ to any of these kids, and it is what they have been longing to hear,” says Jodi.

Finally, when Danny was 16, the Guarnieri family of Peachtree City, Georgia, came forward to adopt him after his profile was featured on Heart Gallery, an adoption website. Says Jodi, “Unfortunately, we were in a situation where we were not able to commit to adopting Danny. I didn’t sleep for a week.”

Since Danny’s adoptive father was an army officer, his new family traveled widely. While Danny loved all the exotic places he got to see, within three years he had attended four different high schools in places as far away as Hawaii and Atlanta. An impending relocation to Florida—and yet another new school—made Danny long for familiar territory. With the blessing of his adoptive parents, he made the call to Jodi. “I knew the Rosens would help guide me toward the future I wanted,” he says. “I wanted to go to college.”

Danny, who currently ranks as oldest sibling while Alex Rosen is away at boarding school, was accepted to the prestigious Trinity Pawling School upon his return from the Philippines. “After sitting next to Danny for 15 minutes, I walked away a better person,” says a school representative at their first interview. The school agreed to a generous scholarship for Danny, and the Rosens, who became Danny’s legal guardians, take care of the rest.

Danny has his future mapped out. “I want to be a field medic in the army,” he says. “And I would like to join the ROTC program in college. I am hoping that wrestling will be a way in for me.” Referred to as “The Rock” by the Rosens, Danny’s presence is having a positive impact on Ethan Rosen, also a student at Trinity Pawling.

Ethan wants to “get fit” like Danny and is learning what can be accomplished when a results-oriented sibling leads the way. “Come on, ‘easy E.’ Let’s run,” says Danny, almost daily. The two boys run toward a future that will be brighter and fuller because Scott and Jodi Rosen went out of their way and changed the life of a foster child.

When asked, “Do you want to be a father some day?” Danny turns on a thousand-watt smile and says, “Oh, yeah.” He is, after all, in the best position to judge the impact a parent can make on a young man, home for the holidays.
 

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