By Teresa Johnson, Foster and Adoptive Mother employed at SAFS, Edited By SAFS
In 1995, my husband Kerry and I were finally able to get pregnant after a year of fertility medication. Nick, our son, was and is the joy of our lives. But in 1998, after several years of infertility struggles, Kerry and I knew that we wanted another child. After attending an orientation through LA County Adoptions, we decided that this was the route we wanted to pursue. We were told that there were many, many children available, but most children were over two years old, and interestingly, mostly boys. We were told to expect that most children had been alcohol or drug exposed and most likely would have some type of learning delay. After a lot of thought, we decided to go ahead and began the arduous process of not only becoming a foster parent but also filling out all necessary documentation to become adoptive parents. The goal was to allow us to foster a child while the adoption process was ongoing.
The paperwork was invasive and overwhelming, but in September 1999 we received our foster care license and were told to wait for a match. The waiting was draining and at times very difficult. But in October, while my son and I were at Disneyland, my husband received a call from a social worker saying a match had been found. It wasn’t until after my son had been put to bed that Kerry shared that not only had we been matched with a baby, but twin little girls seven months old. We were stunned, overwhelmed, delighted, and frightened. We agreed to meet the girls’ social worker in Torrance in a few days.
The meeting changed the course of our lives forever. I took one look at the pictures of the girls and broke into tears. Kerry stared at the pictures for a long time and said with a very resolute statement, “Ok, what’s next?”. The next few weeks were a whirlwind of preparation, buying two of everything. We were to meet with the foster family for a visit in early November. When we arrived, Jessica, the foster mom, was sitting with Starli in her arms and their foster dad, Luis, carried Silvi. The moment was filled with tension and anxiety. We spoke for a while and then Luis placed Silvi in my husband’s arms. He politely excused himself and left the room. Within minutes, we heard loud sobs coming from the back room. Kerry looked at me. I was holding Starli by this time and asked permission from Jessica to go to Luis. Still carrying Silvi, Kerry disappeared into the back of the house. (After a few moments, the sobbing ceased and the two men were out of the room for five minutes.) Upon their return, Luis was once again holding Silvi in his arms. Later, Kerry told me that he had shared with Luis that he could be a part of the girls’ lives as long as he and Jessica would like. They became a part of our family. They were the most loving, caring, and supportive foster couple. They were unable to adopt the girls themselves because they had already adopted two other children through the system. The birth mother of our daughters was unable to care for them, so they were placed in the system with Jessica and Luis since birth. The birth mom had had another set of twin boys two years before, and DCFS gave the birthfather rights to the boys, Alex and Angel.
As we were settling in as a family, we had to become accustomed to the monthly visits from the Social Worker. These visits were always tension-filled and a little scary as there is the fear that, for any reason, our children could be removed from our care. Over the course of the next two years, there were five court dates. During the first four, the adoption was put on hold because of paperwork their social worker did not complete. At the fifth court date, the judge pointed to the social worker and said, “If you do not get the paperwork correct at the next court date, I will personally fine you $1,000”. He went on to say “Mrs. Johnson, I apologize for the incompetency of the system. Will you help your social worker? You seem to know more about your case than she does!” So finally, 2 ½ years after coming home, we celebrated the adoption of our girls with forty of our closest family and friends.
Silvi and Starli are now 17 years old. They are both beautiful, bright, and engaging girls. They have decided they want to graduate from high school early, so they will be finishing high school in December. They recently asked to see their birth records and, due to the wonderful internet, they were able to locate their half brothers and birth mom. Amazingly, their birth mom, Theresa, had been clean and sober for five years, had located the boys, Alex and Angel and had married their dad. After some texting and conversations, Kerry and I, my son Nick and the girls had lunch with Theresa, Alex, and Angel. Though awkward, it was a nice start. Currently, Theresa will text the girls and is mindful of both the boundaries and relationship that Kerry and I have as parents of Silvi and Starli.
Finally, I was able to tell her thank you for her courageous gift. It is also a coincidence, Teresa is my first name, and Theresa’s birthday is February 22, the same day as my husband.