A Facebook post from a friend turned into an “ah-ha” moment for Jackie Huderson.

“Adoption had always been in the back of my mind, but I didn’t know it was the path for me until I saw a Facebook post about a friend who had adopted,” said Jackie. “That was my ah-ha moment. I saw it was an accessible option for our family.”

As they began their adoption journey, Jackie and her husband, Leon, found steady support with Children’s Home Society of Florida’s Comprehensive Adoption Services, where they quickly learned that the support and genuine concern for their family was going to last long beyond their orientation.

After completing in-depth training to prepare to welcome a child from foster care into their family forever, Jackie and Leon couldn’t wait for what was to come.

They met 15-year old Desiree at a local kickball event intended to match potential adoptive parents and children waiting for their forever family.

The ever-prepared Hudersons came to the game ready for every scenario, equipped with bug spray, sunscreen, snacks and more.

“Desiree was being bitten by bugs and I offered her some repellent. Helping her apply bug spray was the first time in my life — and in all my experiences taking care of children — that I felt motherly.”

Jackie kept replaying that moment in her mind on the drive home from the game. By the time the Hudersons reached their front door, Jackie knew Desiree was her daughter.

“I was 1000 percent sure. I have never felt so sure of anything in my entire life,” said Jackie. ” This process showed me a side of myself I wasn’t in touch with before — a spiritual side. You do a lot of soul searching and have very deep, open conversations with yourself and your loved ones. We started praying for guidance and the wisdom to know when something was right and when it wasn’t.”

Desiree was absolutely right for the Huderson family. The family finalized Desiree’s adoption on Halloween 2018.

But Desiree wasn’t the only addition to the family. Destiny, Desiree’s adult biological sister, also became a huge part of the family. The bond between Destiny and Desiree was undeniable and the family made it a priority to maintain and strengthen that bond throughout their journey.

Adoption is a constant journey … and the road can be hard to navigate. Because of CHS, the Hudersons weren’t alone.

With CHS’ Comprehensive Adoption Services, the family continued to find support, counseling and guidance long after the ink had dried on the adoption papers.

“There are good moments and there are bad moments, but support is there for you along the way,” said Jackie “You don’t have to do it alone. CHS counselors are there for you, your kids and your family.”

And CHS doesn’t do it alone, either. With strong partnerships throughout Florida, CHS can help families connect with their large network of resources so they can receive the services and support right for them.

“When we graduated from the Comprehensive Adoption Support program, CHS was able to refer us to other programs to help Desiree find additional support including a mentor,” said Jackie. “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. If you need something extra or something different, you won’t lose anything by asking. You spend more time with your kids than anyone and that gives you a unique insight into their needs. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up and advocate for your child’s needs.”

When Jackie looks at how far her family has come since they first started their adoption journey, she is proud of the ground they’ve covered. And so is Desiree.

“I’m proud of how far I have come and how much I have grown since foster care,” said Desiree. “I’m proud of being a better me.”

And the Hudersons are not finished yet …

The Huderson family is currently waiting to adopt their second child — another teenager to join their forever family.

And while each adoption journey is unique, a common thread of growth, acceptance and love is shared.

“I’m proud of how strong I was during this whole process,” said the teen. “It’s really scary to enter the foster system and jump from home to home, being separated from my siblings. But in the end, if I was given the opportunity to go back and choose my childhood, I would choose it, it’s worth it. It made me who I am today and led me to meeting my amazing parents now.”

Through CHS Comprehensive Adoption Services, families receive training and support from the very beginning, throughout their adoption journey and long after the ink dries on their finalization.

“My counselor was always nice and caring towards me,” said Desiree. “She was always very understanding and let me speak my mind when I needed to. She was there for me when I needed someone to be most.”

CHS counselors provide therapeutic support as they encourage families to build upon their strengths and navigate tough issues that arise throughout their adoption journey – effectively keeping more families safe, strong and together.

These services are available to all adoptive and potential adoptive families throughout Duval and Nassau counties.