Guest post by Deven and Manny Joglar, adoptive parents
In the beginning:
November 6, 2015 will always be a special day for our family because that is the day we adopted our 14-year-old daughter, Diamond.
When my husband and I first began the classes and started taking the steps towards adopting a child in foster care, we were warned by many well-meaning people to stay away from the older kids. The popular misconception is teens in foster care are bad or damaged kids, and that is why they haven’t been adopted. We were also told to “adopt a young child so you can influence their life.”
When we started adoption class, we soon realized that the sad truth is these children aren’t bad. They are only guilty of being born into a situation that they had no control over. The adults in their lives exposed them to varying degrees of trauma, neglect, and abuse. As a result, some of these children may have behavioral, coping and trust issues.
If an adult is a victim of a crime, do we see them as a bad person? Or do we thank God that this good person has survived? We thank God our daughter not only survived, but is thriving and can inspire other children who are still in the system.
We met our daughter at a match event, and knew she was the one for us, but we were left speechless by how many wonderful teens are in foster care. These children were polite, sweet, smart, talented, and even funny. Each of them had their own unique personality, but they all shared a secret desire: to have a loving family and parents who would love them unconditionally.
Some children were more vocal about their desire, while others, like our daughter, had to be coaxed into attending the event. She didn’t want to be adopted by strangers; she wanted to be reunified with a biological family member. This is something my daughter and I have in common. I didn’t want to attend either, but for different reasons. I was afraid that I would get there and want to take them all home with me. My husband insisted, and I soon experienced my worse fear: I wanted them all.
My husband was the first of us to notice our daughter; her curly hair is hard to miss in a crowd. I noticed her beautiful smile, and that she looked us in the eyes when she spoke to us. The first question she asked us was “What church do we go to?” I guess The Crossing was a good answer because after the event we told the case workers we wanted to adopt her, and we were told that she was interested in us too.
The months that followed were a whirlwind of meetings with Diamond and the foster family that was caring for her. We even got to spend time with her big brother. (He is staying with the foster family because he said they were his “forever family.”) We are so grateful that Diamond was a part of the foster family’s life. They helped prepare her to one day have a family of her own. They showed her love, and because they gave freely of themselves she is able to give of herself to us, even if it scares her.
We are not perfect:
I don’t understand why people say things like “You are such good people to adopt a foster kid,” or “I couldn’t do it.” In all honesty many of us have the ability to adopt and don’t even realize it. For us the checklist was: do we have an extra room, and can we love any non-biological child the way we would a biological one. We answered “yes” to both. I am a first-time parent, and my husband’s biological children are grown.
My husband and I see things from different perspectives and points of view. Culturally he was raised in a large, loud, Puerto Rican home, and I was raised in a smaller, Canadian laid-back family. Even though the languages differ and the foods, our parents (especially our Moms) are very much alike. They both believe that God and family come first.
Diamond fits perfectly with us! She has different parts of her personality that are exactly like each of us. Many times we’ve said, “You’re just like your…father (or mother).” We credit our beautiful life together as a family to our faith, the support of family and friends, and open communication. It doesn’t hurt that our daughter is special and a true beauty inside and out.
We didn’t see Diamond’s first steps, but we see the steps she’s made toward becoming a lovely, giving, empathetic young lady. We also saw her get ready for her first Homecoming, had our first Thanksgiving, family vacation and Christmas. Soon we will be with her when she turns 15, so we will have her first birthday party with us, and her first driver’s lesson (a fun but scary thought!).
We asked Diamond how was this Christmas different from any other and this is what she wrote:
“My Christmas was different this year in many ways:
I had grandparents to spend it with.
I never had a Christmas morning brunch and that was very different.
I was the only kid, so unwrapping presents went really quickly.
I had a dad this Christmas; it was so cool to finally feel like I was at home with my family.
I’m so thankful for this Christmas and the experience it brought me.” Diamond Joglar
Christmas was different for us, especially getting ready for the holiday. My husband asked Diamond if she started to write her Christmas list weeks before Christmas, and her reply was “What’s that?” That made us realize that we take so much for granted because we came from loving parents. That made us even more determined to make this year memorable for Diamond.
I had her bake cookies and watch Christmas movies with me like White Christmas. My husband took her Christmas shopping, and we both had her wrap gifts for us. She also bought decorations, decorated her own tree in her room, and hung lights.
The best gift not under the tree: Diamond started the New Year in a very special way.
She started calling us MaMa & Pops, for the first time.
That is so far our favorite first of all.