Sonny is Already a Neville! How a foster parent and young person formed an unbreakable bond.

Gary Neville and his foster son Sonny are creating a life-long bond, but the road to get here wasn’t always easy. With 3 biological children, including an older daughter with special needs, Gary had a full and busy family life. But when two of his older children moved out, he felt a missing piece. “One day I woke up and said to my wife we have the space and the life experience to give back. Young people in particular are struggling across the board, and the ability to help someone have a good life – it’s tantamount to the most important thing I could think of.”

At 13 years old, Sonny desperately wanted a permanent home and family, but he couldn’t articulate that. Having been adopted as a newborn, ultimately removed, and then moved again between different foster homes, Sonny didn’t trust the system or adults. Every time he lashed out or broke the rules, he was asked to go somewhere else. So when Gary opened up his home, Sonny was sure this would be just another quick stop in his life. The Nevilles certainly wouldn’t become his family.
But there was an incident one night that changed everything. Sonny, feeling overwhelmed and anxious, ran away at 2am. Gary chased after him and caught him only blocks away, but Sonny knew that this was the moment he was anticipating. He lost control and made a mistake, and he was sure that Gary would tell him it was time to go back and find another foster home. But Gary knew that the two had a special connection, despite what had happened to him and the choices he was making now. Gary held Sonny and explained that he was where he belonged, this was home and this was family. He was not going anywhere else. Gary wanted to understand what led to the running away and promised to help him no matter how long it took.

When Sonny thought unconditional belonging was just a dream, Gary made it a reality. Today, less than one year later, life looks very different. Sonny just turned 14 and transferred from a specialized middle school to a mainstream high school. With his family’s help and the guidance from one of CV’s Behavioral Specialists, he is making the transition incredibly well. His best friend is Gary’s biological son, Gary Jr, who is the same age. The two love playing basketball and video games together, and always look out for each other.

Most excitingly, Gary and Sonny just began the long process of official adoption. It will take a little under a year to complete all the paperwork and a home study, but according to Gary “Sonny is already a Neville!”

Gary is also sharing his experiences with CV’s other foster parents, speaking to them about the ups and downs and the power of his relationship with Sonny. He speaks at every foster parent graduation and looks forward to sharing more of his story to help others.

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