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One Northbrook Family’s Cradle Story

With three children of their own, Mary Jo and Dale Rust aimed to provide a caring home for children beyond their biological family. In 1985, the Rusts came to The Cradle to begin their adoption journey through the Center for African American Adoption with the placements of Dean followed by Donovan in 1988. Their biological children played a huge role in mentoring their adoptive siblings. It was a family affair coming together to ensure the pair would feel loved and thrive.

Donovan and Dean

“Our older children loved them, we often say that Donovan’s feet never touched the ground until he was 4-years old because someone was always holding him. It was a remarkable experience,” said Mary Jo.

The Cradle stood alongside them to support their special needs and provide them with resources to empower their journey. With a background in healthcare, the Rusts were aptly prepared to face physical and developmental challenges head on.


“I would do it again and again and again. It has so enriched our lives.”

The Cradle’s commitment to families is lifelong. The nonprofit also facilitated the connection for the adoptive children’s birth relatives years later, fulfilling a birth mother’s dying wish for reconnection and another’s desire to have an open relationship. The Rusts credit The Cradle for creating an open dialogue. The pair’s lives have since overflowed with support from birth and adoptive family and friends. These huge circles of love, unwavering acceptance and care improved their lives and touches everyone they encounter. “Like my husband says these two are just the gift that keeps on giving.”

The Rust children

Their extended families – birth and adoptive – have been so open-armed that they will be well-cared for. Both Donovan and Dean are independent, exemplary members of the Northbrook community where they have a wide circle of friends.

Donovan and Dean are among 16,000 people who found safe, loving homes through The Cradle since its establishment in 1923. To learn more about The Cradle, visit Cradle.org.

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