The Gift of a Forever Family

For many people, we’re in the season of spreading joy. I have a story to share with you which I think does that, because when you spend time with the Bernard family, you feel the joy. It is contagious.

The family, headed by Rose and Jude, includes six children – three biological who are now teenagers, and three adopted who are all six and younger. You can sense that Rose and Jude have a great capacity to love; they have fostered more than 80 children and infants since 2012. Many have gone back to their parents, others have been adopted by other families. But the last three, siblings Estrella, Jovani and Junius, were ones they didn’t want to let go of when adoption became an option.

Rose said the couple thought their family was complete after son Nathan, now 14, was born. He followed Juliana, now 17, and Julien, now 15. But both Rose and Jude came from families where helping others was the norm – Rose’s mother fostered children, and Jude’s mother always had other, extended family members as part of the household.

“After he was born, I said to myself, ‘You know what, I think we’re done. I think our family’s complete,’” Rose said. “But then we started to hear about foster care. So that’s when the whole thing changed.”

They became foster parents, and some children were with them only days, while others stayed an extended time.

“We just wanted to help the kids, keep them in a safe environment, and be in a safe home until they were capable of going back to their own family,” Rose said. “We just wanted to make a difference in the kids’ lives.”

One of the first children they had came as an infant and stayed for four-and-a-half years. It was hard when she went back to her mother, but the couple were able to keep contact with her. Then, the mother cut them off completely after her daughter cried because she missed the Bernards.

“We were heartbroken and shocked, and we stopped (fostering),” Jude said. “It took a year to realize we still have an emptiness, our house had a big gap.”

They started fostering again. Soon, they were connected with Mosaic and became child development home providers. This Mosaic service helps children who either have an intellectual or developmental disability or are at risk to have one and need more support than is available in regular foster homes.

In 2019, Mosaic received a referral looking for a family to foster two little children, a two-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl, who needed a child development home. The Bernards were asked, and when they met Estrella and Jovani, they immediately said “Yes.”

Rose said Estrella was very shy, barely spoke, and had not yet learned to use a bathroom. Jovani (Jio) didn’t speak a word, which went on for the first three months he was with the Bernards.

“It was tough because when we first brought them to the house, they wouldn’t let anyone touch them,” Rose said. “They were really scared, they didn’t speak.”

“They gave the kids to us with one little bag of clothes,” Jude added. “If you touched Jovani on his shoulder, he would growl. It took two people to hold him to change his diaper. I realized that these kids had been very neglected.”

Rose and Jude immediately found therapists to help the children. Everything a therapist worked on was reinforced at home.

Within a few months, they received a call from the state asking if they’d take another child. They learned of Junius, a two-month-old sibling of Estrella and Jio. They immediately said yes because they feel siblings should be together. 

The Bernard household held two parents, who both had full-time jobs (Rose as a phlebotomist and Jude as a correctional officer), three active teenagers involved in school activities and sports, and three busy, busy little ones. Rose quickly changed her work to part-time to keep on top of it all. 

The older children helped take on responsibilities for the younger ones as well. Rose and Jude are rightfully proud of their teenagers, who immediately treated the little ones like family members.

The three thrived in the Bernard’s home. Estrella and Jio became big-time huggers who love physical contact. Jio became a non-stop talker, and Junius developed like a toddler should.

Rose and Jude, however, focused on reuniting the children with their parents. They made sure the parents received daily photos of things the children were doing and set up opportunities for them to be together. But over time, the biological parents lost interest and quit responding or participating in the children’s’ lives.

Then earlier this year, they received a call from the state letting them know the parental rights were being severed. The Bernards also were asked if they’d be interested in adopting the children.

“Once we spoke with everyone in the family … we agreed,” Rose said. “We’ve had them for this long. They’re comfortable with us. They call us mom and dad, and they say the older children are their brothers and sister. That’s when we decided to move forward with adopting.

“I remember my husband asked Estrella, ‘Would you love to live here forever? Me and mommy will take care of you forever.’ And then Estrella got really excited, but I don’t think Julius and Jovani really understand what adoption is … all they know is that my husband and I are their parents because they call us mommy and daddy.”

On April 6 of this year, the family all dressed up for the adoption ceremony. Because of the pandemic, it was virtual, but that didn’t diminish the excitement of the day.

“I was very excited that day, very happy,” Rose said. “There was no crying. None of that. Everyone was just happy. The older kids, they got really excited over it.”

We are not an adoption agency, but it makes me happy to share this story and know Mosaic had a part to play in helping three little ones whose parents rejected them find a forever home in a loving family. In the midst of the holiday season, it is a joy to know the younger children will be surrounded by love.

Thank you for being a partner with Mosaic. I pray you have a joyous and blessed holiday season, and make sure to spread the joy!

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