By Tony Gonzalez|
WILSON COUNTY — Sitting cross-legged in the back laundry room of her family’s farmhouse, 13-year-old Dani Lierow let her father tie her shoes. As Bernie looped the laces, she tilted her head and stared intently into his face.
Then she reached a hand up and touched his speckled gray beard.
The gesture, exploratory and affectionate, might be commonplace in many homes. But it was never expected in theirs.
“That was one of the things they never thought she’d do,” Bernie said. “Get close to somebody.”
When he and his wife, Diane, first met Dani in foster care in Florida in 2006, she still wore diapers even though she was 8 years old. She hit and bit herself and never made eye contact.
It had been a year since police rescued her from a tiny, roach-infested room in Florida. She had survived her first seven years confined there by her birth mother, cut off from other human contact.
Damaged and badly delayed in her development, Dani drew national attention after a Pulitzer Prize-winning story in the St. Petersburg Times thrust her unique challenges and adoption onto the national stage. Everyone from Oprah to Anderson Cooper came calling. Those who heard her story were inspired to cry, to adopt and to take a more vigilant approach toward neglected children.
Soon after Bernie, Diane and their biological son, William, adopted her into their family, the drama moved to Middle Tennessee, where the Lierows had lived before they moved to Florida. They restored a 1920s farmhouse at the eastern edge of Wilson County. They found a summer camp, a horse stable and other programs to help meet Dani’s needs.
Read the full story at Tennessean.com.
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