Alison Sherman, 47, of Toledo, Ohio, endured fertility issues and invasive medical procedures, but her greatest struggle didn't come until she wanted to adopt. Read Alison's story of hope.
by Alison Sherman
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin
After the physical and mental hardship of many failed pregnancy attempts, my husband and I adopted a beautiful baby girl, Sarah. Her birth mother was 15. A few years later, we got a call that Sarah's mom had a baby (with a different father) and the baby boy, Josh, was in the custody of our local children's services board (CSB). Sarah was next-of-kin for the baby and we were told we could be his foster family and we'd likely be able to adopt him.
Josh was taken into CSB's custody because of a failure to thrive. He lost weight since his birth. The parents didn't have a home and stayed in a building without utilities or running water. The biological father was a drunk and the couple fought all the time.
When we first got Josh, he was so skinny and long. He'd hold his hands in fists over his head to cover his ears. It took several weeks of me holding him tight before this stopped and he relaxed. Our goal was always to adopt Josh. It was so completely clear that his biological parents were not capable of providing a home for him.
While Josh was our foster child, we had many meetings with lawyers and people at all levels of CSB. Josh's court appointed special advocate (CASA) had the responsibility of looking out for his best interest. She visited us periodically and observed how Josh was doing.
Ohio is a parental rights state, so the social workers did everything they could to rehabilitate the biological parents. We had representation at every court hearing to make sure that CSB was not exaggerating the parents' success. Additionally, we wanted to see if they really were meeting the requirements of their case plan -- appropriate housing, employment and drug testing.
Ultimately, CSB convinced a judge to let Josh go back with his birth parents. I can still picture the day they came to take him after he'd been with us for 22 months. It was a cold and gray December morning and I held him tightly as his copper-colored hair peaked out from his fleece hood. I kissed him a thousand times, hoping I could make the goodbye last just a few seconds longer.
We had no choice but to accept the court's decision. Yet even after he was gone, I had a feeling I'd see him again.
A few months later, we adopted another baby girl, Jamie, and felt blessed, but I still had a hole in my heart for Josh. I wouldn't take his pictures off the walls or stop talking about him with friends.
The birth parents couldn't take care of Josh, nurture or love him the way we could. I knew we were the best home and family for him and I couldn't give up hope that he'd be back with us. I remember thinking, "How could anyone rule for parents' rights when a child is being harmed emotionally and physically? Shouldn't all states be focused on the best interest of the child?"
Josh's biological parents didn't stay together and there was an incident of domestic violence and the mother was arrested and put in jail. The court ruled that the birth parents were not capable of caring for Josh and took custody away.
Josh ended up back into foster care in another home 45 minutes away. But Josh's CASA found out and alerted us. We quickly contacted our attorneys and they made a phone call to the director of CSB, reminding him that the judge said when they took Josh away from us that if he ever ended up back in the system he was to be returned to us. At that point we made arrangements to visit Josh and bring him home.
We got Josh back when he was 3-1/2 and when he walked through the front door, he headed to the toy box like he'd never left. We were granted temporary custody at a court hearing and a few months later Josh's adoption was finalized. We quickly bonded as a family and now I have to pinch myself when it hits me that I have three beautiful children.
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