Join co-hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber as they discuss the ultimate goal of foster care—reconciliation of the biological family. In part two of this special two-part series, Jamie Patrick shares about her relationship with her foster child’s birth mom. Discover the value of respecting and loving birth moms by listening to this episode today.
To get involved in adoption or foster care, visit https://www.sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption/.
- Adopted for Life
By Russell Moore
- You and Me Forever
By Francis Chan
Announcer: Welcome to The Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we are here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Lynette Ezell: You know, we say often that at the end of the day, foster care is the call to enter a family’s brokenness and help bring them healing. And as we’ve discussed, Tera and I have discussed many times before, family restoration is the ultimate goal of foster care.
Tera Melber: Absolutely, it really is.
Lynette Ezell: It is. And Philippians 2:3-4 comes to mind. It says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.” That’s so hard.
Tera Melber: It is hard.
Lynette Ezell: “Not looking to your own interests,” and this is to the Church, “but each of you to the interests of others.”
Lynette Ezell: Fostering according to God’s way is a daily willingness to just lay ourselves aside. Right? And to surrender to what He’s called us to do.
Tera Melber: So today, we’re going to pick back up with Jamie Patrick and hear the rest of the story, or at least a part of the rest of her story. But we really did want to talk to you after you brought Judd home and started getting into figuring out how this was going to go down. You didn’t know very much about him when he first came into your home. He had been really neglected. He was nine months old.
Tera Melber: And then you had to start walking through the rest of the story with foster care, which includes everything from pediatrician visits, court dates, talking to your case manager, your guardian ad litem, all those people who are in your business all the time. And then finding out more of the story of his birth family.
Tera Melber: So tell us a little bit about that, and how your relationship with Judd’s birth mom developed.
Jamie Patrick: So there are just so many amazing pieces about how God put all this together. But whenever you receive a foster child, you personally have our own caseworker and the child has their own caseworker. And both of those are assigned by the State. And especially during that time, there was a lot of upheaval in that department specifically. So caseworkers were changing constantly, which can make communication really difficult at times, because there’s a new caseworker with you all of a sudden that doesn’t know a lot about the backstory of all the things that have been happening.
Tera Melber: That’s such a challenge.
Lynette Ezell: It is.
Tera Melber: And I think it’s good for foster parents to know, because it’s very typical.
Lynette Ezell: It’s so hard, yeah. You start all over again.
Jamie Patrick: Well, and when you’re in that world and you become a part of it, you see why there’s so much turnover. Because what they do is so difficult. And I prayed so much for my caseworkers throughout all of that, just because I became so much more aware of how difficult their job is.
Jamie Patrick: But I have to say, that was not the case with us. So we ended up, my caseworker had been in the system for years, years and years. And then the caseworker that was assigned to Judd was an amazing part of his story. This man did not typically work with small children. He typically worked with teenagers. But the birth family, Judd’s birth family, also had older teenagers who were already in the foster care system. And this caseworker did not even know that Judd existed. The birth mom had hidden him from the State for as long as she could.
Jamie Patrick: And so whenever Judd came into care, this caseworker was called immediately because this was a part of the family he was already working with. And the amazing part of all of that is that caseworker was a strong believer.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, how awesome is that?
Jamie Patrick: Yes. And so he encouraged us along the way to cultivate a relationship with the birth family, because he knew them, and he knew some of the circumstances that he maybe couldn’t share with us. But he was just a huge … not necessarily advocate for us, but I guess advocate for what he believed was in Judd’s best interest, and just really helped us through all of that. So that was just another beautiful piece to the story that made our situation a little bit easier.
Jamie Patrick: There were a lot of things that weren’t so easy, though, the first one being … So when you get a child, you already have signed off, basically, that what you guys mentioned at the beginning, this is totally about the child. Everything that happens, everything is supposed to be in that child’s best interest. And that means sometimes that what I might consider to be in Judd’s best interest isn’t necessarily what everybody else thinks is in Judd’s best interest. But I have to do what I’m told. And again, just trusting God through all of that.
Jamie Patrick: So the first part of all of that, after we got Judd, was just the first court date a few days after the child comes into care. And that’s when the judge determines if the birth parents will be able to have visitation rights, and just some of the steps that will be necessary for the birth parents to be reunified with the foster child. Because again, that is always the goal, reunification.
Jamie Patrick: And I have the right, you do as a foster parent, to be in the courtroom for those proceedings if you choose to be. And I have friends who have chosen never to go in, I have a few that have worn disguises to sit in the courtroom, because they don’t … But we just believed from the beginning that God wanted us to be present and visible. So I went to every single court proceeding for the birth family and every single court proceeding for Judd, which you are supposed to be there for Judd, because you speak on their behalf when they’re babies and all.
Jamie Patrick: So I went to that first court proceeding, and the birth family did not appear. They didn’t show up, which isn’t all that uncommon. But I did get to hear the judge say that the child would need to have visitation with the birth parents on a weekly basis. So that means, then, that as the foster parent, you’re responsible for getting the child to whatever location is determined by the judge for where visitation will happen. And for us, at first, it was every week, and I had to go downtown to a large building and take Judd in, and hand him off to a social worker, who then took him in to visit with his birth mom.
Jamie Patrick: His father was not involved during that time. I only ever saw him once. There were some pretty significant charges against him, which kind of kept him from being able to be in the picture very much. But that very first week of the visitation, we got there, and Lang went with me that time, that first time, because this was all so new. And when we got there, the person that we signed in with said, “Okay, so the birth mom is here, and she would like to meet you.” Well that immediately struck fear in my heart, to be honest with you-
Tera Melber: I’m sure.
Jamie Patrick: Because if you can … I mean, I’m a mom. I know how I would feel if someone else was caring for my child.
Tera Melber: Right.
Jamie Patrick: And we knew very little about the situation and all of the background at that point. So we were a little trembly as we walked down the hallway into this meeting room. And there she was. And she immediately took, sorry, took our little one and loved him. And I was just thankful in the moment, because there was no doubt that she loved him dearly, and that seeing … And he is a baby, wasn’t super aware of what was going on. But it was just really interesting to observe, because my heart was already becoming very attached to little Judd at that point. And to see him with the woman who gave him birth, and just see her love him like she was, was just really surreal.
Jamie Patrick: But God just gave us the grace to be able to have a really good conversation with her. And I was very compassionate toward her. She is actually my age. She was not a young mom. So we had some similarities there. And I just tried to ask her mom-type questions that I thought would help her feel like she was a part, like, “What size diapers does he wear? Is there a certain kind of music he likes?” And she immediately started telling me how much he loves to read books, that she likes to read books with him a lot, and that she loves to hold him, and dance, and sing; which we’re a musical family, so that was a really sweet connection.
Jamie Patrick: And so I just immediately tried to befriend her, because I could tell that in that moment she felt very much like a less-than. And there were … It was very clear by her appearance that drugs were a huge part of her life. And I got to know her better over the course of the next several months, I can share with you some of that, but that first visit, in many ways, was jolting. Because she did not look like she was in her late 30s. She looked like she was probably in her 60s, just because of all of the things that she had experienced in her life.
Lynette Ezell: That was my experience with a birth mom as well, several times. But it is just … It’s just so sweet of the Lord that in that first visit with your birth mom, you were able to see her with compassion, and as a human being, and as someone that obviously came from a hard place as well.
Jamie Patrick: Yes, completely.
Lynette Ezell: And that’s how she was responding to life, was from her hard place. And that’s … We really want people to see, we really want foster families and adoptive families to see that we are dealing with human beings with these birth parents.
Tera Melber: Well, and ultimately, when you think about it, our focus so often is on the child, which it should be, because we want the children to be in a safe place. But if our ultimate thoughts are that every human being comes to know the love of Christ, then our compassion must increase. And when you said she felt like a less-than when you were in the room, you know that she had to have felt shame and all sorts of other emotions. And so even just for you to be able to have the kindness of the Lord be able to help you muster up kindness and compassion at that moment gave her value and worth. And who knows how often that happened in her own life.
Lynette Ezell: Exactly, exactly.
Jamie Patrick: Yes.
Lynette Ezell: And then how are you, Jamie, able from that point … Because I know your story, you were able to build a relationship with her. How are you able to take those small steps toward building a relationship with her?
Jamie Patrick: So again, it’s just funny in that I truly believe that God has a hilarious sense of humor. Because I had already decided I was going to go to these court proceedings. So the next court date, it was for the birth mom, I went but I was thinking, “Oh, she’s not going to show up.” And when you go to these court proceedings, it’s really eye opening. Because you go to … There’s huge court buildings downtown, and you go to a certain floor, to a certain courtroom, and there’s people everywhere up there that are going through the very same proceeding you are. It’s really eye-opening to see all the needs that are represented there. And you just sit and wait for that name to be called. And you can sit for hours.
Jamie Patrick: So I took some work and was over in a corner, thinking, “I’m just going to wait for them to call her name so I can go in and learn more about …” This is all really a means of knowing more, as much as I could, about Judd’s story. Because I felt like I needed to. I was advocating for him at that point.
Jamie Patrick: So I’m sitting over in the corner, and out of the corner of my eye, I see birth mom get off the elevator and walk towards the courtroom. And I immediately try to hide, because I thought, “Oh I don’t want …” Because I knew she would probably recognize me, because we’d already interacted. She came straight toward me and sat down beside me.
Lynette Ezell: Wow.
Jamie Patrick: And started talking to me, and telling me how nervous she was about the proceeding, and asking me all kinds of questions about how Judd was doing. And honestly, we sat there for probably 45 minutes to an hour. And in the course of that time, I told her all about my family. I told her about why we were fostering. I told her all about our biological Jonathan. And as it turns out, her mother actually, growing up, her mother worked for the State and helped provide care for families and kids who have disabilities.
Jamie Patrick: So she had a place in her heart for our Jonathan, because of the kind of home she grew up in. And I just have to tell you, Lang and I have said repeatedly, these categories of addicts, and homeless, and all of that; when you know somebody by name, those categories are not categories anymore.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Jamie Patrick: And I found out that day in the courtroom that Judd, his family had been on the streets of Louisville the majority of his life. They were homeless. She did not have a house. She had no place to live. They lived in an alley. So, again, homeless, homeless was always a category. And you see them on the corners … She told me stories about people giving her blankets, and how she would stay in the library all day downtown and read to Judd. And at night when they would shut the library down, she would cry when she had to leave, because she was so cold. And she didn’t know how she was going to keep him warm. That’s not a category, those are people. They’re souls.
Jamie Patrick: So my heart just really began to be softened towards her. We became friends, which I know sounds crazy, but we really did. I just saw a totally different side to her story. She grew up in a very well-to-do family, had everything at her disposal that she could want. She was an open book. She was a really smart person, she got a scholarship to college. Everything about her life, materially, she had at her disposal.
Jamie Patrick: But when she got to college, she realized that things weren’t as great as she had thought they would be. And she became depressed and she turned to alcohol. And she said, “I remember well,” and she named a bar that I know of in downtown Louisville, “sitting in that bar.” And she said, “I was really drunk,” and she thought, “Man, I wish I could feel like this all the time.” And she said, “In that moment, I feel like I sold my soul to the devil.” She said, “Because my parents had always turned to alcohol. If there was a problem or a difficulty, that was what they used for relief.” And she said, “So that’s all I knew.”
Jamie Patrick: So as a result of that, she met a guy at that bar that she ended up marrying, not knowing that he was an addict. And ended up, drugs just became a part of her life because of that, and abuse, and various things like that. And I just remember repeatedly she would say to me, “This is not the way it was supposed to be. This is not the way I wanted my life to turn out. This is not what I wanted.”
Jamie Patrick: And God just really wrecked me on the inside, because I thought, “I have got to just beg Him. I’ve got to start praying for this woman, because I don’t know of anybody else in the world right now that knows her story and is praying for her.” So I started praying for her, and she …
Jamie Patrick: But here’s the thing that I have to say, and I think everybody, I’ve talked to other foster families about this. When God directs you to pray for the salvation of the birth parents of the child that you are caring for, there is a huge war that goes on inside of you. Because in my heart, I knew if this birth mom becomes a believer and gets her life, whatever, starts doing better, that means Judd’s not going to stay with me. That means he’s going to go back to her. And I still thought, “I’m the better mom. I know what he needs better than he does.”
Jamie Patrick: And so there’s this war, again, and it was another release where I had to say, “Lord, this is in Your hands. I have to trust that Judd is in our home for a reason, for however long.” And I remember that was the one thing that Lang was telling me constantly, “Whether he’s with us for a day, or a week, or a year, or 10 years, we’re going to be obedient to what God’s called us to do, and we’re going to do what He tells us to do.” And so I was the one sitting outside the courtroom beside the birth mom while everybody else looked at us and tried to figure out what was going on, because we clearly weren’t from … We weren’t the same or similar in any way. But God knitted our hearts together because of our common love for Judd.
Jamie Patrick: So that was that part. And then, as often happens in these situations, she drifted away. And I had given her my cell phone number, which isn’t always recommended, but Judd’s caseworker knew and knew the situation. And because of the situation, he encouraged it. Never heard from her. So for several months, I would go to court proceedings and she wouldn’t be there. And I had no idea where she was. She disappeared.
Jamie Patrick: And so the judge would talk to me. And we had the same judge from the beginning all the way through. So she would ask me how Judd’s doing. And I was always present and always visible, and tried to communicate as best I could with everybody that was involved.
Lynette Ezell: That’s such a great point, Jamie. It’s such a great point, to show up, to be there. So much of fostering is showing up, and taking care of the child, and loving others, just showing up. And you’re doing that. And I know you have four other kids at home.
Jamie Patrick: Yeah, it really, really stretched me. But again, it’s funny because I look back on that with such … I have such fondness for that time. Because I was so incredibly dependent on God, because I needed His strength, and His power, and His direction. And I think those seasons of difficulty are just … They’re just so beautiful, because God uses them to just stretch us and grow us. Because it’s clear when I look back on that time, in and of myself, Jamie could not have done all that I was being called to do. But God was sustaining me. And just, as I walked in obedience, He just went before me and prepared the way.
Jamie Patrick: So there was a season, probably of four or five months, where nobody knew where she was, couldn’t find her. And then all of a sudden, randomly in August … And we were getting fairly, it’s been almost a year since the placement at this point. So at this point, the judge’s tone is starting to change in these court proceedings toward … The first thing that has to happen is they have to decide if reunification is not a possibility, then they have to take the parent’s rights. And the child just becomes a ward of the State at that point, so there’s this in-between time where they really become an orphan, before you can adopt them. So it’s several steps that can take, a lot of times, two years or longer, more than that. And we were only about 10 months in. But the judge’s tone was already starting to change in those proceedings. And we didn’t know where birth mom was.
Jamie Patrick: And then one day in August, I get a phone call. And I didn’t answer it because I didn’t recognize the number, and it was a voicemail from birth mom to me, to my cell phone. And she said, “I am in facility here to detox.” It was in [E-town 00:18:19], which is far from where I live. And she said, “I’d really love for you to come and see me. Would you come and see me?”
Jamie Patrick: And I was like, “Sure, I’ll come see you, yeah,” not knowing anything about what was going on or what she wanted, scared again. So I work it out, get someone to watch my kids, and I take off on a Wednesday afternoon to find her. And I get to this facility, and I remember I had to leave everything in my car. I couldn’t take anything back. It was a lockdown place, not necessarily a prison, but a place for people who have been arrested for drugs and various things like that, and they’re in a program to help them with recovery and all.
Jamie Patrick: I went in, and I had actually brought, I have a Bible that I used all through my pregnancy with Jonathan, our birth child. And because for a long time, we didn’t know if Jonathan was going to have disabilities or not. And I just was crying out to God, and had highlighted a lot of things in my Bible. And I took that Bible thinking, “I would love to give this to birth mom so that she could have it as a resource in her own difficulty and grieving.” So this is a prized possession of mine that I was about to hand off. And then they wouldn’t let me take it back. I did end up getting to give it to her later.
Jamie Patrick: So anyway, I go through security, get back in there and sit down. And it’s me and her. And I’m thinking, “God, what am I supposed to say?” And I started kind of talking to her about Judd, assuming she would want to know how he was doing. And she cut me off and she said, “I know that you have an answer. I know that you have what I need.” And she said, “I don’t even know what it is, but,” she said, “there’s a bridge that I stood under downtown.” And she said, “For months when I sat under that bridge, I keep thinking about you,” she said, “because I know that you have something that I need.”
Jamie Patrick: And I’m looking at her, and it’s like it doesn’t occur to me she’s talking about the Gospel. I’m just looking at her thinking, “What?” And then it’s like, duh, she’s talking about she needs God. And so I just start unpacking the Gospel. And I don’t have anything. I don’t have a Bible or a phone. But I just start sharing with her the Gospel, and what God did for me, and how He rescued me, and His love for me.
Jamie Patrick: And I said, “This isn’t just for me, though. He loves you.” And I talked to her about how I felt like even the fact that Judd was in our home was a sign of God’s love specifically for her. And that I felt like, more than anything, He had brought me into her life through Judd so that she could hear that somebody does love her, and that there is hope outside of alcohol, and drugs, and … Eternal hope, that even though the promise of Heaven doesn’t fix everything here on Earth, it is something that we can cling to when life is really hard.
Jamie Patrick: And I shared all of that with her, and she said, “I want that. I want what you have.” And so I prayed with her, and she prayed and confessed her sin, confessed the ugliness of her life, and the fact that she had run to everything else apart from God, and asked Him to be her Savior. And I was just blown away. I didn’t really know what that would mean for us, or Judd, or anything else, but just knew in that moment that as best she knew how, she was giving her life to Christ. And then our time was up and I had to leave.
Jamie Patrick: So we continued, I went back and saw her again, I sent her some clothes and some things like that. And her court date was coming up, which I knew was going to mean that the State was going to take her rights away. And that’s really, really a difficult proceeding. But I was so involved in her life at this point that I knew I needed to be there. I needed to be there for Judd, but I also needed to be there for this friend, a sister in Christ at this point.
Jamie Patrick: So the day came, and Lang and I both went. And in those proceedings, the person that’s actually going into the courtroom can choose who comes in with her. She can choose not to let anybody in, she can go in by herself. And so we’re just sitting outside the courtroom talking to her, waiting for her name to be called. Her name’s called, and she’s assigned an attorney that she goes and talks to. And in a minute, the attorney comes out and says, “Jamie, birth mom wants you.” And scared again, I get up and go in. And the attorney said, “The birth mom has decided that she wants to give her rights as a mother to you, and she wants you to sit beside her in the courtroom while she does that.”
Jamie Patrick: And so I walk in, and even in that moment, I’m thinking, “God, I can’t believe this is actually happening.” So when you go into the courtroom, you always have the birth family on one side of the courtroom with all of their legal help, and then on the other side of the courtroom is the State who is actually speaking on behalf of the child in their care, which would be the side that I would sit on. But that day I sat with the birth mom on the side of the birth family. And I held her hand while she told the judge that she wanted me to be the one to raise her child. And the amazing thing about all of it was she said, “I want him to have what I didn’t have, because there’s something different about this home.” And she said, “I know that I need it,” and she said, “more importantly, this isn’t about me. I know that he needs it.” And she said, “I love him enough to give him what I didn’t have.”
Jamie Patrick: And in that moment, I’m trying to be really still and not cause any disruptions, but I’m bawling, of course. But I look up, and the judge is crying. She says … And I look over and the attorneys are crying. And then the judge said, “I have never seen anything like this.” She said, “I’ve sat on this bench for 23 years, and I’ve never experienced anything like this.”
Lynette Ezell: Only Jesus, that’s right, only Jesus.
Jamie Patrick: Only Jesus, you know?
Lynette Ezell: Yeah.
Jamie Patrick: And again, when I tell this story, it’s always … Obviously I had absolutely nothing to do with that other than the fact that I showed up, which you talked about. I just did the next thing. And the end of that story is not so happy, because she’s actually passed away. She died about a year and a half ago. But I have such an incredible story to tell Judd, who is now a part of our family. So that day, she gave her rights to me, which has greatly expedited the whole process of adoption. Birth father was out of the picture. We found out later that he had actually already died, and we did not know that, from a drug overdose.
Jamie Patrick: So again, just God’s hand on Judd’s life, and protection, has just been amazing. So that was in September. We adopted him December 17th. And then we moved to Colorado to begin a whole new ministry just a few months later, because that was the last piece that needed to be in place before we could leave the state. Obviously we had to adopt him first. So God even used all of that to orchestrate His plan for us and what was next for us, which was a whole new life in a whole different part of the country.
Lynette Ezell: Jamie, thank you so much for sharing all that. I mean, it’s just so personal, and it still … We’re crying in here, and it’s still just so raw. And you’ve just been so transparent today. But to enter that brokenness could only be led by the love of Christ. And it’s more, and I say this over and over when people call, Tera and I do, and they call us about adoption or foster care, it’s not about taking that one child. There’s so much more to the story.
Tera Melber: It’s the bigger picture.
Lynette Ezell: Yes. And the Lord calls us and asks us, as the Body of Christ, to engage brokenness, because we come from brokenness. And the forgiveness that He’s brought to our life, and it is a difficult journey, as you’ve shared today. But the beauty that the Lord brings out of it, just while we’re here, waiting to all be reunited with Him, Judson will see his birth mom again one day.
Jamie Patrick: Yes, I believe that, I really do.
Tera Melber: We serve a big God who sees things way bigger than we do.
Lynette Ezell: Absolutely.
Jamie Patrick: Yes.
Tera Melber: And we are just called to be faithful and obedient, and not to think that everything’s going to be easy and perfect, but you just take the next step. And He gives us the strength to do it.
Tera Melber: Your story has been a huge encouragement. And I remember all of that taking place, and yet when you’re telling it, I am a crying mess over here. But we are grateful for your friendship. It’s just been an encouragement to watch you and your family walk in such faithfulness. And we pray the Lord’s sweetest blessings over you all.
Jamie Patrick: Oh, thank you so much. This has been a privilege. I think that like the children of Israel, we’re called to remember. And just going back and talking back through it, it’s just so good for my soul, because we drift sometimes. And just to go back and see God’s hand in all of that is just an encouragement to me personally, even though I experienced it.
Lynette Ezell: Well, and it will be a great encouragement to people who, like you said in the first podcast, you were in fear for a while. And so just in ending, we just appreciate you sharing. And you’re going to help a lot of people walk through their fear.
Tera Melber: We love ya.
Jamie Patrick: Thank you so much, guys, yes, thank you for this podcast.
Lynette Ezell: Thank you.
Announcer: You have been listening to The Adopting and Fostering Home, a resource of the North American Mission Board. For more information about today’s podcast and other relevant resources, visit SendRelief.org.