To learn more about Joint Council’s National Adoption Month Advocacy Campaign-Click Here
I have written many times about my relationship with my adopted daughter Minuette. It was easy to put into words because we both wear our hearts on our sleeve. We both speak our peace and we can duke it out with words whenever we need to. Minuette came to us with a special addition. When we found out she had a younger sister my husband promised Minuette that we would bring her home as well. Josette, who followed Minuette like a shadow, was 1 year younger and was eager to please.
Josette joined us 6 months after Minuette came to us. They were 13 and 14 and had suffered from years of abuse and neglect. Our journey started in June of 2005 with the girls coming to us through treatment foster care. Josette was quiet and kept to herself. If Minuette ordered a BLT and fries, that is what Josette ordered. If Minuette ran away, so did Josette. When Minuette cried, Josette’s face went blank and you could see her go to a safe place in her mind.
You see, Josette was a lot like her sister and then again she wasn’t. She did not open up for a long time and even then she was careful what she said. One day when I picked her up from the foster home she was still in, we passed a church and she asked me, “Do you think God is real?” I told her I said; “yes I believe there is a God”. She then asked me how I knew. I said you can feel it in your heart, it is called faith. She then asked me, “what if you don’t feel it in your heart?” I cried inside to hear her say that and I knew from that day forward I wanted to help her find faith and the will to survive.
Josette had blocked out the pain and suffering for so long she didn’t even know what it was like to experience true feelings. On top of it she had knocked out her front teeth in a roller skating fall a few years before and the temporary teeth that they put in were not very nice. She didn’t smile as big a smile she could for fear that people would make fun of her teeth. My husband and I spent hours talking with her about life, the past and the future. She eventually opened up about the past but she couldn’t fathom that she had a future.
On May 17th, 2007 we adopted Minuette and Josette. We thought that life would be so much easier for them and we found out our journey was just beginning. Many times they turned down the wrong path and ended up where they didn’t want to be. More importantly many times they headed back up the road to pick a new path. Josette took her time bonding with me, she would not trust easily.
My husband likes to compare Josette to a turtle. She has a protective shell that keeps her safe and it saved her life for many years. When she came to us through foster care we were able to convince her to peek her head out. The sunshine scared her and she hid once more. Slowly day by day, month by month and year by year she peaked her head out, enjoyed some of that beautiful sunshine until one day she realized she didn’t have to carry that protective shell anymore. The little girl, who trusted no one, slowly began to trust in something so sacred she couldn’t believe it was actually real: a family. A true smile and that cute little giggle became something we heard often not just on a special occasion. Her spirit grew and she embraced life.
We saved money to get her front teeth fixed, because insurance would not pay for a “cosmetic surgery!” They said they would give her two silver teeth but porcelain (white) teeth were not considered necessary. Can you imagine a teenage girl walking around with silver teeth? She was mortified! I have never seen a smile so bright as the one she had when she walked out of that dentist’s office.
The love I feel for Josette is no match for the pride I feel for the hard work she has put forth to heal herself. Even she does not realize how proud she should be of accomplishing the biggest goal in life anyone who has suffered abuse can achieve: she is no longer a victim. She stands up to bullies. She speaks up for those who can’t. It doesn’t matter to her what ethnicity, what gender, what sexual orientation you are, if you are a true friend she will be your friend unconditionally. If she feels she has been wronged, she talks about it. She is not perfect but that is what makes her so special. Josette spent many years alone, surrounded by people, but very alone. Her sister stood by her and tried to protect her but Josette always felt alone.
What she hid from me and the world was a grief so deep even she didn’t know it was there. She became adept at covering up her sadness. Happiness and a close mouthed smile were her shield. Her armor was an anger she contained so deep inside her that she smiled through abuse. Abuse that would have put the strongest man six feet under. Like her sister she suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It brings along flashbacks, depression and anxiety.
Josette missed a big portion of her sophomore year in high school due to illness. Her junior year we chose Insight online school so that she could be close to home and her safety net. As she healed from the inside out she became strong enough to attend public school for her senior year. She volunteered at the hospital for the SANE nurse, played volleyball, worked for a Christian camp for the summer and babysat for her 1 year old cousin. This may not seem like anything spectacular but when you never thought you would make it to your 16th birthday, it is a huge achievement. Living life just like many of us take for granted is a gift. A gift Josette is thankful for everyday. A gift she wants to give again and again by becoming a therapist or social worker. College is her next goal and we are excited to help make it happen for her.
Josette had An Answer. Be The Answer for another child by telling a child how much you love them and how important they are in your life.