The following article borrows content and interview material from WNDU’s “Wednesday’s Child” segments, which air weekly on South Bend’s WNDU. Interviews with Alex, Mercede, Jaimee, Jazmine, and Nevaeh were conducted and reported on by Tricia Sloma. The girls’ initial segment aired in 2020. The interview below with the Gonzalez-Springer family aired May 17, 2023. These materials are reprinted with permission and gratitude.

Whatever else you may think about teens, you’ve got to hand it to them: they’re nothing if not brutally honest! Take Jaimee and Jazmine, for example. They’d been in foster care for 10 years, and at least as many foster homes, so their initial take when they were moved to live with a family in Fort Wayne? “I immediately thought that it’s not going to work out.” …. “Yeah, no, I didn’t like them.”

That’s a ringing endorsement for adoption, right? But if you let both girls finish their thoughts, you’ll hear: “But after a while, I don’t know, something changed.” …. “I guess, over time, they just grew on me.”

The “them” that Jaimee and Jazmine are referring to? The people they now call their parents. Mercede and her husband Alex are licensed foster parents with The Villages, and are just about a decade older than the three teens they recently adopted.

Only a decade older? (Indeed.) And did you say the girls had already been in foster care for 10 years? (Indeed we did.) But first…did you say three? (Indeed.) It would be impossible to tell this story without Nevaeh, the younger sister of twins Jaimee and Jazmine, and the one who didn’t entirely echo her siblings’ hesitation. Born with cerebral palsy, Nevaeh has spent most of her life relying on a wheelchair for mobility. She’s also spent most of her life expecting mobility to come in the form of moving foster placements. But a real home? A real family? One that was up for helping her conquer some of her physical challenges? That seemed like a dream.

Even Disney-loving families know that life isn’t a fairy tale and there are no ditzy fairy godmothers waiting to wave a magic wand and say “Bippity Boppity Boo.” But sometimes for dreams to come true, you don’t need any of that. You just need a couple of committed people who are dedicated to doing the hard work (like installing a wheelchair ramp before the girls even moved in). That’s what the girls found in Mercede & Alex. For Jaimee, Jazmine, and Nevaeh, their long-chased dream of a family has come true. But this isn’t just any family. This is a family that loves them each of them for who they are, as individuals unique as the day is long. Sure, Jaimee and Jazmine look alike, and there’s no question all three are sisters – but for every one thing that’s similar, there’s something that’s different too.

But let’s go back to the decade part. The girls had been in foster care for 10 years. Stop to think about that. Jaimee, Jazmine, and Nevaeh entered care in 2012. Other things happening at the same time? Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected President of the United States. The first (of many) Marvel Avengers movie was released. That was the year that a couple of Giants (San Francisco and New York) won the World Series and the Super Bowl. A hurricane by the name of Sandy flooded New York City and everything around it. And the country learned once again about collective grief as we struggled to understand the “why?” behind the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It was a very. full. year. It was also a very. long. time. ago.

After all that time, Jaimee, Jazmine, and Nevaeh had grown used to a few things: new houses, new neighborhoods, new schools, the hurdle of making new friends. You wouldn’t blame them if they were less than certain about filming a “Wednesday’s Child” video segment with WNDU. But, in the middle of a pandemic – also part of a very. full. year. – these sisters met a reporter in Plymouth, Indiana and went fishing. They shared what they hoped for in an adoptive family. And they waited.

Just a short time later, Mercede and Alex saw the segment on Facebook. They weren’t foster parents yet. They weren’t even parents. Neither of them had even celebrated the big 3-0. But they saw the video and shared it with their social media connections. 

“I shared it and said, ‘I pray these girls find a home that will meet their needs. I pray a family will come up for them. That they will have a great family.’ Little did I know that would be us.” Not long after becoming licensed, their licensing specialist at The Villages contacted them about a placement. Keep in mind, this is a young couple with a plan of fostering one child. Did they want to become parents? Yes. Did they want to become parents of teens, plural? Well…yes.

Taking a leap of faith at the height of the pandemic, Mercede and Alex became the foster placements for Jaimee, Jazmine, and Nevaeh. For 18 months, this family of five navigated through the adjustment period, some ambivalence about being adopted, all the typical ups and downs of being a teen, the utter chaos of COVID-19. And on February 14, 2022 yes, Valentine’s Day this late-20s-something couple officially became the parents of 3 teenage girls.

This fairy-godmother-lacking tale would have been quite inspiring if it ended there. But, it doesn’t. Remember the wheelchair Nevaeh relied on? After moving into the Gonzalez-Springer home, Nevaeh received an adaptive bike to help build her strength and conditioning. She’s also had surgery on her back. Now instead of requiring a wheelchair, this fiercely independent teen is playing basketball and has joined the track and field team. And the older girls  the ones who were pretty uncertain about the whole thing to begin with? They’re learning what it means to have adults in their lives that they can count on. They’re also learning what it feels like to have parents who care enough about them to attend parent-teacher conferences and to insist on including them in holiday family photos. 

In this family  one that was 3,764 days in the making  no one is an afterthought. Everyone is cheering the others on, whether from the sidelines of the basketball court or on the day a report card comes home. Yes, there are mistakes and missteps, and days when things just don’t go as planned. But there are just as many chances for do-overs, and there’s plenty of grace to go around. 

Pin It on Pinterest