September 1, 2020, while a slew of friends and family waited in the courthouse parking lot because of COVID regulations, Julie and David finalized the adoption of brothers, Zayden and Nixxin. It was a day to celebrate. And to grieve.
Not everyone understands how grief mingles with joy at an adoption. Fortunately, David and Julie do. They’ve been helping Zayden grieve for almost a year, ever since it was determined he and his little brother couldn’t safely return to their biological mom.
“In the courtroom, Zayden put on a good face, but he was still sad,” shares Julie. “We let him be sad, even as we shared how glad we were to have him as part of our family.” The boys’ safety, well-being and adoption into a loving family are things to be celebrated, and at the same time, it is important to acknowledge the huge loss. With the help of David and Julie, later that evening, Zayden was able to celebrate and had lots of fun with his friends.
The Back Story
Adopted at birth, Julie always sensed God drawing her towards adoption. When she met David and they started talking about fostering and adopting, Julie thought, “Maybe this is the right guy for me!”
After attending a Project 1.27 Info Night in 2017, Julie asked, “David, how serious about this are you?” Dave having heard during Info Night that a couple needed to be on the same page responded, “If you are on board, I’m on board!”
One year later, after becoming certified foster parents, the couple visited brothers, Zayden, four, and Nixxin, not yet two, at Savio House. David and Julie played with the boys for about 30 minutes and a few days later, met their biological mom who shared about the boys’ favorite foods and activities.
“The next day, the caseworker brought the boys. We were as nervous and scared as the boys were,” Julie shares. “I had taken off work for the day and David was home for the morning. The boys played like you’d expect kids to play. Zayden was super out-going and Nixxin was fine as long as big brother was around.”
Like many foster families who are helping children heal from trauma, COVID brought some real challenges. With Julie working from home while homeschooling both boys, things got really hard. Julie shares, “We were already in every therapy out there and it wasn’t helping. I resisted for two months, but we finally engaged a TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) coach. It was the best yes I ever said!”
Some days brought setbacks. Like most parents, Julie and David were excited about teaching Zayden to ride his bike. Like many kids, Zayden thought he would be able to ride the first time he tried. When that didn’t happen, he had a total meltdown at the park. Home again, their TBRI coach offered some tips to try the next day. She cheered them on and encouraged them, saying, “You guys are awesome. You’re doing it right.” The couple tries to use the TBRI parenting principles every day, but sometimes it helps to have a coach who understands trauma-related behaviors like meltdowns, someone who says, “That’s really what happened! I’m really sorry.”
“Foster care has stretched us so much,” says Julie. “The most challenging was my relationship with the boys’ mom. Zayden didn’t want me as his mom. There was a weird cycle when Zayden would treat me horribly and then his mom would treat me horribly. I had to open my hands and release my pain. I had to learn to roll with it, to pray for her and hope someone else can tell her about Jesus’ love.”
Commitment and Support
Despite the challenges, Julie and David knew they had committed to the boys long-term, no matter what happened. Knowing how much it would damage Zayden and Nixxin’s development, the couple pushed through the hard times. “We have each other. We have a good support team, including other foster families. We have a sterling church!” says David. “We have our faith, our belief in the sovereignty of God. First and foremost, we believe these boys are God’s.”
Julie adds, “We knew our friends and family would be supportive, but there’s also these random people who ask if we need something and it’s exactly what we need- a meal or a bag of clothes. We knew God would provide but when you see it happen, it’s shocking!”
When asked what advice they would give other foster and adoptive parents, they shared two things. Get a support group, you’re going to need it. According to Julie, “You have to have a support group. We went to Support Team Training because we had to. We walked away happy to have them.” Dave offers this second piece of advice, “Lean on God. Pray. Know that only through His support and grace can we do this.”
In the 2 ½ years since Zayden and Nixxin arrived, Julie and David have enjoyed spending time with the boys, watching them develop and as Julie describes, “bloom.” In the last two years, the boys have grown together as brothers and playmates who really care for each other. Zayden’s out-going, a people person, full of empathy and caring, who comes home from school and says, “I just love people. Nixxin has grown from a baby, just learning to talk, into a witty, sweet, talkative boy. Julie describes Nixxin as “mischievous, with a twinkle in his eye”.
Persevering through the challenges, celebrating the joys, Julie and David love the brothers deeply. Dreaming of the boys’ future, David shares, “I want them to thrive, to know that we’ll always be there for them; always be their biggest fans. I want them to continue with church, to grow as believers. I love that Zayden led his classroom in a rendition of Jesus Loves Me and hearing Nixxin preach about how he loves Jesus on the way home from church.”
Loving the boys so much, Julie had shared with the certification worker how much she wanted a little girl. Concerned about how that would affect the boys and the size of the family car, Dave was adamant that this was a no. So, Julie gave away the pack-and-play to another foster family. The baby girl clothes the family had collected in preparation for fostering were shipped to a friend in Kansas.
Then, their social worker called looking for a family for a baby girl. Again, David said, “No!”. Then, his no changed to a yes. “If we are chosen to care for this baby girl, yes. I’m all in.” A week later, one month before the boy’s adoption, Baby Surprise moved in. Lack of baby supplies wasn’t a problem because friends and family, that support system, provided everything she needed. The boys both love their Surprise, and being big brothers is having a positive affect emotionally.
When asked how we can pray for them, Julie and David shared these requests –
Pray for the boys as they grow, for continued emotional healing and that they learn to lean on the Lord. Pray that Baby Surprise would attach to us and God would heal her, too. That we would be good examples for the kids and the best possible parents to all of them.
WHO WE ARE