Jessica's story: Hope wins out for a forever family

In July 1996, Jessica’s mother left her in the care of an eleven-year-old cousin. The cousin physically abused two-year-old Jessica. An investigation into the incident revealed bruises and marks consistent with physical abuse.

Then on Sept. 27, 1996, the Florida Department of Children and Families received another report alleging inadequate supervision. Allegations of no caretaker present, bruises and welts on the child, and failure to protect inflicting harm were all verified by investigators.

On Nov. 25, 1996, Jessica’s already neglectful mother, who was addicted to crack cocaine, was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for suicidal ideation. While hospitalized, her mother allegedly left Jessica and her siblings with non-relatives who were unable to care for them properly. After an investigation into the whereabouts of the children, the case was closed with findings of inadequate supervision, and the children were removed from the mother’s custody and placed in foster care.

Jessica’s mother eventually left the facility and completed her case plan, so Jessica was returned to her mother’s custody. Within a week of returning to her mother’s care, DCF received another allegation of abuse.

On Dec. 19, 2000, a report was made to the Florida Abuse Registry alleging the mother’s paramour hit Jessica with a belt. Jessica reported that the mother’s paramour hung her over the top bunk bed by her neck and was choking her. Jessica was also subjected to sexual molestation by the mother’s paramour.

While Jessica’s siblings were reunified with their parents, Jessica was permanently separated from her family after nine traumatic years of on and off abuse. Jessica’s parents surrendered their parental rights.

Jessica faced many challenges in foster care. Although she understandably had therapeutic needs as a result of past abuse, she was a genuinely nice and caring girl. While in foster care, she had 24 case managers and 15 different living arrangements, including three failed adoptive placements, because she hadn’t been matched up with the right family for her. Jessica struggled to comprehend why her siblings were reunified, and she was still in foster care. She struggled with building relationships and trusting people, but with therapy and time, Jessica gradually overcame her challenges.

Jessica’s case came to One Hope United in Oct. 2004. Always friendly, grateful and nurturing to other children in the home, it was a surprise to all that Jessica was still in foster care at age 15 without a family to call her own. Statistics show that few families are willing to adopt older children and many of these children end up aging out of foster care at age 18.

Last summer, at age 15, it seemed like time might have run out for Jessica. Despite the facts, and her failed adoptions, Jessica never gave up hope on finding a forever family. And although her case plan goal was Independent Living, the OHU staff working with Jessica never gave up looking for potential families.

Across town from Jessica, OHU Adoptions Case Manager Stacey Greenberg was meeting with a family that had moved to Orlando from New York. Elba, the prospective adoptive parent, had adopted four children through the foster care system in New York, and now that they were grown she wanted to adopt again. She had lots of experience with older children including foster children, and Elba said she wanted to adopt a teenage girl. Stacey immediately thought of Jessica and told Elba she should introduce herself to her at the upcoming adoption event.

Elba and her family met Jessica at the adoption event at Sea World and immediately hit it off. Jessica quickly became best friends with Elba’s 18-year-old daughter, Franchesca. From that day on, Elba referred to Jessica as her daughter. Jessica visited with the family throughout the fall and winter and officially moved in mid-January. After the required 90-day placement period, Stacey and the OHU Adoptions Unit, including Jessica’s Adoption Case Manager Christina Narain, joined Jessica and her new family at the courthouse for her adoption finalization. Jessica was wearing a ring with her new last name and the date of her adoption finalization, and she wasn’t the only one teary-eyed when the judge granted the adoption.

Congratulations Jessica! We wish you all the best!

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