The words on her little T-shirt said it all: “Wanted. Chosen. Loved. Adopted.” And on Nov. 30, the day my son and daughter-in-law had thought would never come, it was official — the child they had fostered for more than a year and half became their daughter in the eyes of the law.

In their hearts, she had been their daughter all along. From the first time they held her, a 5-month-old child placed by God’s grace in their foster care, she was as loved as if she had been birthed into our family.

Being foster parents is not for the fainthearted. My son and daughter-in-law have fostered a half-dozen or more children since they opened their home — children from hours old to toddler who needed a secure and loving place to live while their birth parents or other relatives worked through the process of regaining custody. Some stayed only a few days; some stayed a few weeks; others more than a year, each one welcomed and wanted with the understanding that a permanent home was there for them if things didn’t work out with their biological families. Giving back a child who has stolen your heart is heart-wrenching, but as my daughter-in-law said, the pain of saying goodbye is mitigated by knowing how much a safe and loving foster home could mean for these children.

This time, though, there was not a goodbye. Instead, there was a ceremony making this little one a permanent member of our family — a family with a mommy and daddy who would lay down their lives for her; five grandparents and a great-grandmother along with aunts and uncles and cousins and a “sister” of the four-legged kind who dote on her; and extended family and friends who rejoiced with us when Blount County Circuit Court Judge Tammy Harrington proclaimed that Nevaeh Grace Albert officially was ours.

The ceremony was held in my son’s living room via Zoom due to COVID-19 concerns. Judge Harrington, plus my newest granddaughter’s case worker and an attorney, were onscreen along with aunts and uncles in Memphis and Kentucky. Ten of us attended in person, masks in place, keeping a safe distance from each other, windows open and ceiling fans running. To say it was surreal would be an understatement, but what else could we expect in such a strange year? Yet even in a pandemic, we can make a way to rejoice together safely.

The signs were right that this once tiny baby who’s now a precocious 2-year-old was destined to remain with my son and daughter-in-law. She came to us on my birthday in January 2019 and I claimed her as my birthday present. No way was I going to give her back! And as I found out just this week, her mommy had foretold her coming. She told me, “You know how teenage girls will talk about their wedding and who they think their husband might be and the kids they would have. I said I would have a daughter one day and I would name her Nevaeh.” Who could have guessed her prediction would come true in the way it did?

Wearing her little shirt, a frilly teal tutu, white socks and no shoes because she kicked them off as soon as her mommy put them on her, Nevaeh had no idea just how momentous Nov. 30 was. For her mommy and daddy, she is a dream come true; for our family, she is a belated Thanksgiving gift, an early Christmas gift. For her Mamaw Albert, she’s the birthday present that grows more precious every year, if that’s possible.

The words on a sign her mommy and daddy had made sums it all up. It says, “Today I’ve found rest in a love that will never leave. A home where I will always belong. A family that is forever mine. Today I am adopted.”

Welcome to the family, Nevaeh Grace Albert. We’ve waited for you a long, long time.

Contact Linda Braden Albert with story ideas at LindasInkyfingers@comcast.net.

Life columnist

Linda Braden Albert worked as a feature writer and editor at The Daily Times. She is now the editor of Horizon Magazine and a columnist.

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