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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
BY SIOBHAN MCALARY
More love both ways
Tamika and Shakeely Sullivan tell me shock
is the most common reaction on people's
faces when they find out the identical twins
"At school they're shocked because it is
a bit different. But after they see we are
confident in telling them they're like 'cool'
and want to know more," Tamika said.
"We're used to sharing our lives," their
mother Karen explained.
Sixteen years ago Karen and her husband
John fostered Tamika and Shakeely into
their care. The sisters had been born on
Christmas Eve, twelve weeks early, and
were then barely one year old.
Six years on Karen and John applied for
"We started the adoption process when the
girls were seven and adopted them when
they were twelve," Karen said.
"It took nearly five years because the
parents objected initially, then Dad agreed
but Mum objected. The twins had to see
a psychologist because when they were
twelve they could agree to adoption."
Conversely, the long wait was "worth it" as
both families had time to grow accustomed
to each other.
Although living with the Sullivans in
Stockton, Tamika and Shakeely saw their
birth family regularly, a requirement of
their case plan, but a blessing for Karen
who understood the importance of the
girls knowing "who they are and who their
biological family is". It also helped that the
girls' birth family lived locally.
Green leafy parks and popular movies
provided the backdrop to these visits and
allowed the sisters to settle into life with
The visits are "a big memory for us"
"We had them quite regularly, going to the
movies with their Mum, Grandma and
When Shakeely and Tamika were officially
adopted into the Sullivan family Karen
recalled the delight of her young sons,
Jacob and Lucas, then six and four.
"The boys were very happy as they had
grown to love the girls just like sisters."
Now in Year 11 at St Francis Xavier's
College, Shakeely and Tamika are busy
preparing for the HSC, indicated by their
bulging backpacks and thick folders, and
the quiet determination on their faces.
Tamika said they are both keen for a gap
year after Year 12.
"We'd like to travel around Europe before
Although swamped with senior study they
stay in touch with their birth family through
Facebook and frequent phone calls.
"Our Mum rings a lot," Shakeely smiles, "and
she comes and watches us play netball."
"I think it's a wonderful thing that we have all
come to know each other and for the girls'
sake this has been very important for their
identity," Karen said.
Tamika said being a part of two families is
"awesome", while Shakeely noted, "It gives
us more people to love."
Reflecting on her life, Karen believed she
had not only received much grace from
Tamika and Shakeely, but also from their
"We've got a relationship with their
grandmother and grandfather and their
aunts and uncles, so the grace has gone
both ways. It's not all about what we do."
Staff at CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning Mayfield celebrated
Woolly Hat Week in style and at the same time raised funds for Hunter
Tamika (left), Shakeely and Karen Sullivan. Karen is an administrator at CatholicCare Mayfield.
SEASONS OF GRACE
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