Outside in the cool December air, next to blinking strands of Christmas lights and bright red bows, a neighbor asked Jordan Hernandez, age 4, the age-old question: “What do you want for Christmas?”
“I have everything I want,” he said. “I have my family.” The neighbor was stunned that a little boy could see past the toys and trinkets and focus on what mattered most: family.
The Hernandez family has many traditions. Every year, they spend Christmas Eve with one side of the family and Christmas morning with the other, before returning home to celebrate as a family of five. On Christmas morning, everyone sits in a circle around the Christmas tree while “A Christmas Story” plays in the background. With an aunt that’s a professional baker, the house is filled with every kind of dessert, and the warm scent of cinnamon and sugar hangs in the air. The older children pass out gifts, and each member of the family takes turns opening one at a time.
But it wasn’t always like this. When Ariana, Allie and Jordan first arrived at their forever home, all three children chose to sleep in the same room – with the light on. Growing up in an unstable environment with a background of parental drug addiction meant it took both time and love for the children to feel safe and secure in their new home.
Carmen and Dimi had never discussed having three children before, but they felt moved after meeting the three. “It overcame our hearts,” said Carmen. “We knew they’d be with us forever.” Knowing that sibling groups are some of the most difficult to find loving forever families for, Carmen and Dimi reimagined what their family could be and contacted their caseworker to move forward in their journey to becoming parents.
They took extra training classes to understand and support their children’s special needs. With their parents’ love and support, two of the children were able to decrease the amount of medication they were on and all three are now thriving at school and at home. The children love spending time with Dimi at the driving range and bring their kid-size clubs to golf alongside him. Together, the siblings put on skits and create artwork that warms their parents’ hearts.
Like many oldest siblings in foster care, Ariana, now age 11, had a hard time letting go of the responsibility of taking care of her brother and sister but is now flourishing as the big sister and the individual she was meant to be.
Carmen and Dimi empower their children to make their own choices and encourage self-expression. One of the ways Allie expresses herself as a middle child is through her clothing. She loves to make a bold statement by wearing bright, neon colors with an emphasis on pink.
Jordan is a friendly and independent second grader. He loves learning new things and introducing himself to others. With the support of his parents, he’s advanced in his motor skills and ability to focus.
“It’s rewarding for me to see them grow and become their own person,” said Dimi. “Having the safety of this home, knowing that they’re not going to go anywhere, allows them to grow and prosper. Teaching them how to ride a bike, taking them to school, being called Dad, it’s all a reward.”
Going from 0 to 3 Christmases is a big but wonderful step, and Ariana, Allie and Jordan have taken it with grace. Each year, Upbring helps more than 160 children find forever homes where they can make new happy memories built on traditions and stability. “Everyone at Upbring has a good heart,” said Carmen. “They’re there because of the kids.” Give the gift of a beautiful Christmas this year to a new family or to a child who may have never had one before.