In case you missed Part 1, read it first here.
Let's pick up where we left off...
In the same breath that our adoption coordinator told us what T decided, she also said, "But I have a kid who I think you and Joel would be perfect for and his TPR (termination of parental rights) and case file just landed on my desk."
A thousand thoughts ran through my mind. Y'all I'm serious when I say Joel and I had reached a point in this journey where we questioned if we ever wanted to be parents EVER! We didn't even know if we could be matched again after the most horrendous things had happened with our first disruption with T. Joel had been so stressed that he didn't know if his health could handle it. Before this moment, we had become content with the idea of just waiting it out and just being us for a while, if T had decided to move on.
But I was with Joel when I was having this conversation, so on a moment's notice I asked him, "Do you want to hear about another kid?" He thought for a quick second and then nodded yes.
I couldn't believe he said yes. Joel is never the gas in our relationship- shocker! I'm always the leap first, think later one and well, let's just say I've rubbed off on him a bit. I couldn't believe that after all that brokenness I too said yes.
She proceeded some details "His name is Freddie and he is 13. He has 3 sisters- one who is now 18, one whom was adopted by a paternal family member (not related to Freddie), and one that was just adopted by another foster mom, but she is eager to maintain connections with the siblings."
My heart smiled that he had sisters. This was huge to me. Huge to me that we could be a reason they were able to stay connected, even if we weren't the ones to adopt them altogether. Oh my heart.
Joel and I prayed and thought about learning more at a full disclosure meeting. We didn't tell many people this time. But I had spoken with 2 mamas that had similar stories. A terrible disruption happened in their journey to becoming foster or adoptive parents, and then bam in a moment they met their forever child. I knew a few things... after hearing their stories, I felt connected and convinced that maybe I could still be a mom and that maybe this was God, moving quickly, tugging on my heart before it became too numb.
After all, I didn't search for this kid. I had never seen a photo of him. I knew a few things about him, and I asked all the questions I didn't know to ask the first time we had been matched. I didn't find this kid out of desperation, myself. He was given to us in our most desperate hour.
Psalm 30:5 says, "His favor is for life;Weeping may endure for a night,But joy comes in the morning."
Don't get me wrong. We weren't elated. We were hesitant. And we were questioning our ability to love again, if we had it in us, and if this is what we wanted, more than ever before.
Our adoption coordinator presented him to us. And I thought maybe this is a door God opened, since clearly I didn't open it. And I questioned, do I want to be the one that closes a door God, Himself opened?! So I told Joel that I felt that way, and he did too.
So, on Easter weekend, I texted her that we decided that we would say yes to a full disclosure meeting. This disclosure is where the entire team (caseworker, guardians, therapists, etc.- anyone that engages with the child) meets with the prospective family and answers any questions following their entire case file. After a couple weeks of waiting, the coordinator snatched some photos for me. In my mind, Freddie had beautiful light brown skin, but really I had no clue. And then this photo came before our meeting.
This time the meeting felt different. In a good way, it was completely different. The entire team was on board. He had support that T had lacked. This team knew this kid. And they were eager to sign us up before we could even say "yes." It was decided. They just knew, based on our dedication to T, that we were Freddie's family. We wanted to meet Freddie. In fact, we signed the paperwork to prevent any other family from looking at him. He never even went to recruitment (sometimes kids can stay in recruit birthday after birthday, Christmas after Christmas, before they ever have a forever family). TPR with Freddie had happened at the same time we had lost T. And while, we don't believe that all was lost with T- as we hope we made a difference in his life, we were just waiting on God's bigger plan to unfold for our life and for his.
In the meeting, the guardian began texting big sister and arranged for us to meet her first. You see, Freddie had literally just been presented with the idea of adoption. It wasn't something he had been thinking about long or even asked about. It's not something he wished and wanted for his life. A lot of kids in foster don't wish they had another family- they have a family and just because the state removed them, it doesn't make them love them any less, no matter the trauma. It's just human nature to love your parents, no matter what. So, we decided that it might be better for us to meet big sister first, so she could tell him what she thought about us becoming his family. She came over for dinner one evening after visiting with her youngest sister. However, to our surprise, little sister's adoptive mom dropped her off. So we got 2 for 1 y'all. We got to meet two of his sisters the very same day- and one of their moms.
I noticed that her mom was driving a car with a "USC" tag on it, which is a college from the state Joel and I are from, but I didn't think too much about it. The following week, we connected over facebook and she asked me if I was from Anderson, South Carolina. Y'all I cannot make this stuff up. Turns out she is from my small hometown, and she graduated from the high school I went to nearly all my life. She's from my little town of Williamston, SC. Only God. ONLY GOD! And now... years later, she lives 5 minutes from us in Jacksonville, over 6 hours from our little town. Say what?!!
That night with big sister was a blast. She is a lot like me- high energy, open book. She even called Freddie and tried to play matchmaker herself at that first meeting, and he was SOOOO quiet and wouldn't speak much to us. He was timid. The idea of adoption, even though he had agreed to meet us, was still so new to him. A few weeks went by and then we got to meet him and big sis with the whole team for ice cream. He was still quiet. He didn't have any questions (as most kids don't, they just observe). But big sis is a talker, so she and I kept the conversation going. And of course we brought Mo (our dog) along with us, and she's always a trip.
We met him about a week or so later, again (I cannot even begin to tell you the timeline- which is so unlike me, but I was just living in the moment) at a park and then on Mother's Day weekend we made plans to go see a movie for our first unsupervised visit. It was great until we got a flat tire. AHHHH and just so you know a wheelchair accessible van isn't something you can just find on the fly. How hard it was to stay joyful in this moment of spending our first time alone with him and all the complications that life throws at you. But we got it taken care of (oh and just so you know... the people who stopped to help us just so happen to drive the exact van I do and we had everything between us and them to figure it out since AAA and no one in all of HUGE Jacksonville could tell us how to get help). We made arrangements to unite all his sisters together on my birthday weekend to celebrate big sis graduating from high school. This would be the first time they would all be together unsupervised by the state in over a year. And they had no clue it was my birthday, but I was basking in mama-mode and loving every second.
Our first photo with the 3 of us!
On the last weekend in May we got to have him spend the night for the first time. We took him to Joel's last therapy session for the year to show him how Joel walks. And since it was a holiday weekend (Memorial Day), we got to keep him from Friday until Monday night. AHHH! It was great. I think we installed his tv that weekend. It's almost a blur now. He slept all the way back to his foster home, exhausted from the fun we had had just being a family.
The plan was to have him transition over the summer, in time for school to start. We would focus on letting him visit for a week at a time with us and then a week with his foster family over June. And then by mid July, we would start working towards moving him in for good, as long as he was comfortable. We were always open with him about the next plans, asking him what he thought, and letting him lead. But it seemed easy compared to what we had been through before. It seemed natural and peaceful. And he always told us his opinion. But it was always to progress with moving in.
He was always open. And there came a time where I told everyone I wanted a refund for all the people who said this kid was quiet. They are clearly crazy. haha. But seriously I wanted a refund on those words, but I'll keep him too. ;)
June 1st, he began his first week-long stay. But, after talking with him and the team, they decided to move things more quickly. He was ready. I know that seems nuts- especially for a kid who seemed not to attach easily to people (oh the diagnosis's they give to kids just to put a label on their behavior). His foster family only chose not to adopt him because he wouldn't open up to them. And this is the very reason our adoption coordinator had thought we would be the perfect family for him, because she knew we had shown with T that we could love a kid unconditionally.
He had spent just a long weekend with us, and then during this week long visit decided to stay for good. I won't say it was normal, but it was necessary for the circumstances (for more than one reason). He was in control of the pace. And for kids who have lost all control and say over their life, this was a big deal to let him lead. It also proved to him that we care about his thoughts and want him to feel this is his decision, not just ours. (Just FYI, kids who are 12 years or older also must consent to be adopted in Florida. So he too got to choose us.)
We did some things differently this time. We were a little slower at everything we did. We didn't sit him down and tell him how many aunts and uncles he had or give him a book so he could learn everyone's names. We just let it happen. We didn't introduce him to family over FaceTime at set times. We were mirroring his pace a little better. We didn't hug him- because he's not very fond of them to begin with (y'all pray for him because our family is full of huggers- haha). We didn't pray over him out loud (because he hasn't been raised in church). We did give him rules pretty immediately, but he was in a very structured foster home with a family, so he caught on pretty quickly (don't get me wrong, he tests me daily, but rules are my best weapon, contrary to his opinion that I am strict). We didn't even talk about changing his name until August. And he decided to keep his given name- which is OK- he is still a Jackson, formally or not, he is ours. Something I didn't change was letting him know how much we love him. Every single day, even though he was not used to hearing it (let's be for real, after being in foster care for over a year and a half, not hearing that and then all of sudden hearing it and seeing it, it can be scary- especially for a teenager).
So let me officially introduce you to our boy! This is Freddie! He loves animals- especially cats. He is a gamer (Lawd help me) and loves fortnite. He enjoys making music on his computer. He hates being in a crowd, but he's the life of the party once he knows you. He is a fish. He loves the beach and the ocean. He HATES photos and videos and being the center of attention (so please watch the videos on my facebook so you can see he isn't miserable looking at some of these photos- goodness).
He is addicted to sugar- cereal, gatorade, and koolaid. He loves to cook, and he can out cook me in a hot minute. He is officially the grilling master in the house. He is thoughtful and always spending time with Joel. He talks to Joel all on his own and is always asking things about him, even if we aren't in the same room or place with him. He is now 14. He is full of life. His belly laugh is the best part of my day. He is hard working once he gets going- we are working on persistence (but who isn't at 14). He is a jokester (I currently have a bottle of windex with blue gatorade under my sink- which he thinks I don't know about- clearly he doesn't realize he is the window/mirror cleaner in the house now). He is a daredevil. He is caring. He loves affection in his own way- play fighting- and he is tough on me. He drives me absolutely mad- which assures me he is right where he's supposed to be.
Now let me blow your mind for a moment...
In 2003- I met Joel
In 2004- God made me a few promises- Joel would be my husband and we would have a son
Also in 2004- Freddie was born- which back to my Biblical number 27, means the naming of a son
In 2004- I began praying for them both, long before I was sure they were mine. I clung to those promises
In 2009- Joel and I were reunited after his accident and our lives had taken different paths
In 2012- Joel and I began to date
In September 2013- Joel and I were married
In July 2014- We moved to Florida
In September 2014- We decided to start a family
In March 2016- We moved to Jacksonville
In October 2016- Freddie was placed in foster care
In 2017- We started our journey to adoption
In March of 2018- Freddie lost his family (through TPR)
March 28 of 2018- Joel and I lost T (through disruption)
Also March 28 of 2018- We learned about Freddie
Easter weekend 2018- We decided to say "yes" to learning more about Freddie
In April of 2018- We met Freddie's sisters
Also in April of 2018- We met Freddie
June 1, 2018- Freddie moved in
August 20, 2018- He turned 14
August 28, 2018- Freddie became ours
Why do I put it all into a timeline for you? God is faithful. I waited 9 years for Joel to become my husband and 14 years for Freddie to be my son, whom I had never met but prayed for continuously. I prayed for Joel when we were both far from each other and God. But my story isn't mine. It's a God story. I tell you this because I don't know what you're clinging to, but only God can move mountains. Only God. And He will do it. He is faithful. He is a promise maker and a promise keeper.
These 2 are my proof.
Love makes a family,
Jackson Pine Farm