I first met Galia, a unique and powerful woman, at her studio in a peaceful eucalyptus grove. During the interview, we discovered that we have at least three mutual friends.
Galia and her husband have four children: three biological children and one adopted daughter.
“Ten years ago, a social worker from Orr Shalom called me to say that a week-old baby girl was in the hospital needing a home. Ever since I can remember, I had a dream: I wanted to have my own family and to have the means to adopt a child who lacks one. I wished for the opportunity to save a child’s life.
When I met my husband, I shared my dream, and he replied that I can keep on dreaming but it would never happen with him. Later, our children always made fun of me and my fantasy. Surprisingly, when our youngest son was five and the twins were about 11, my husband started talking about adoption. He was suddenly warming up to the idea. But he was still filled with doubts and concerns even after we started the process with Orr Shalom, and he made sure to remind everyone that the dream was mine, not his.
When we decided to embark on this journey, we knew that adoption wouldn’t be available to us as a family with three children, so we decided to take the fostering route. We wanted a child who was at least two and a half or older. We didn’t even consider a baby as we felt that we were done with diapers and sleepless nights.
Initially, two brothers, aged three and four, were supposed to come to us. But a few days before we were to meet them for the first time, their biological mother gave birth to a baby girl. Now they were looking to place the three siblings together. We felt that this would be too much for us. My husband and I are freelancers and we have a full and busy life outside of raising children. I needed to feel self-fulfilled, and I was worried about taking on such a big commitment. So it was with a heavy heart that we refused the request to take in the three siblings.
About three weeks later, we were approached about taking in a week-old baby girl from the hospital. We knew that there was no father in the picture, and we were told that the mother was mentally unstable and had no support from her family. We were asked to make a quick and crucial decision within 24 hours whether or not we take the baby in. It was like going through a fast-track pregnancy – we didn’t have time to process, nor time of anticipation and waiting.
I decided that whatever the universe has in store for me, I would embrace it with open arms, even though we were still struggling with the decision. We were worried about the impact on our marriage, and we didn’t know how our children would feel about us having a tiny baby who needs constant care, day and night. I was very excited - but also very concerned. I needed to see the baby before making my final decision. I thought that if I saw her, it would be easier to decide, but deep down I knew that I already made up my mind. I was turning forty, and this baby would be my gift. From the moment I set eyes on her at the hospital, it was clear to me that this was a meeting preordained in the heavens. So it came to be that about eighteen months after we started the process, a new baby entered our lives.”
“We have a diverse family, with three biological children - twins aged 22, a son who is now 16, and an adopted daughter aged 10.
Before we made the decision to foster, we had a family discussion. It was important for us to share our thoughts and concerns with our children. We knew that our decision would directly impact them. My eldest daughter was excited about the prospect of having a little sister, and my youngest son was happy to no longer be the youngest. Still, my eldest son wasn’t sure if he even wanted a brother or sister and questioned if we could love the new baby as much as we loved them.
Despite our doubts and concerns, we decided to open our hearts and home to another child. Together, as a family, we set out into the unknown - we didn’t know who the mother was or whether we would be able to bond with the child or if, at some future time, she would be taken from us. But we were willing to take the risk and give her a loving home.”
“When we shared our decision with the extended family, their responses were very harsh. My parents thought the decision was irrational and irresponsible. They were scared for us. We met others who looked at us with doubt in their eyes, and more often than not, we were asked why we were doing this. Today I know that they were voicing their concerns, wishing to protect us, although I must admit it led to self-doubts and questions. I had an in-depth and open discussion with my children. I explained that I will have less time to dedicate to them and that I may sometimes ask for their help, which will mean that they may have to give up some of their time, too. I asked them to be straightforward with their responses, and feel safe and comfortable to stop me if they felt it went over the boundary of what they were willing to deal with.
At that time, I was running my own business. The foster system was less organized than it is today, and as a foster mother, I wasn’t entitled to maternity leave. All this took place during the summer vacation. The baby usually slept till noon. My 13-year-old daughter would change her diaper every morning, and then the baby would go back to sleep. I always made sure to ask my daughter whether she was happy doing this. Today, I know that it brought them closer together. My eldest son, unlike his sister, was reluctant to get close to the baby for the first six months, but I’m delighted that today he is very close to her.
There was happiness and excitement, yet it took me some time to get used to the change. All of a sudden I had this tiny baby in my life. However, it was no different than the stress I experienced during the first weeks following the birth of my biological children, when I needed time to get to know them and connect, time to learn what they wanted and who they were.
On the day we took her home, we went to the hospital with sweets and balloons. The medical staff watched us with tears in their eyes. The welfare administrators, the social workers, Orr Shalom staff, doctors and nurses joined our sense of the moment’s sacredness. I have never been so nervous.
We came home with the baby, but without the extra weight or raging hormones I had when I gave birth to my children. The house was filled with family and friends. I was touched when I saw that so many people wanted to be part of this moment, and, at the same time, I also realized that I would need help. Fortunately, it turned out that many people around me were happy to help.
Now, when I consult families about fostering, the first thing I ask them and send them to find out is what support system they have. Because to succeed in this exceptional journey, you need, maybe even must have a supportive circle of friends and family.”
“For eighteen months, we used to take the baby to a special center to meet her biological mother under supervision. The mother didn’t always show up, but when she did, it was complicated. As the foster mother, it was important for me to keep having these meetings, to do our very best to allow the mother to prove that she could be a good parent. I had a lot of compassion for her, even though I was not allowed to meet her. I could imagine her suffering.
Our status was that of a foster family that may later have the option to permanently adopt.
I remember bringing our daughter to the center, where the social worker would take her from me to meet her mother. Our daughter would come back from these meetings with a blank expression on her face. On the way home, the child would often scream and cry. At some point, I felt it was too difficult for me to face alone. So I asked a few of my good friends to take turns and accompany me to the meetings.
At the time, we were fostering without the legal status provided by the laws that have since been passed, and as a foster family, we had no status or rights. In many ways, we were like a babysitting service. Luckily, things have changed.
As time passed, we all adjusted to the new family that we have become. Our daughter still struggles with fears of abandonment, but her sense of belonging has deepened over the years. Although she still has moments of fear, she has made significant progress, thanks to our hard work and support. Nights were difficult in the beginning, but now she sleeps well.
In spite of the challenges, she is a strong and resilient child, and we continue to see her growing. There were moments in the past when she would in protest repeat that I wasn’t her real mother. It was painful, but I always tried to respond with understanding and humor. I wanted to create an accepting environment where we could say anything, express our feelings and address any concerns. I knew my role was to create stability and security for her.”
“When the little girl was about two years old, she and her mother were referred by the courts to a psychiatric evaluation to determine her suitability for adoption. I couldn’t accompany her because I wasn’t allowed to see the mother.
During the first evaluation, with her biological mother present, she was distant and uncooperative. A decision was made to have us come in with her for a re-evaluation without the presence of the biological mother. This time, she was open and unrestrained. The doctor could see that her development and communication skills were age appropriate. The report was sent to the court to decide if she was eligible for adoption.
A few weeks later, the biological mother legally surrendered her rights to her child. Five meetings were arranged for her to say goodbye to her daughter. Everything was tense and emotional. After the fourth meeting, the social worker anxiously informed us that the mother had changed her mind.
It was an extremely difficult moment, but I had a feeling everything would work out. And, in the end, we adopted her. The adoption was declared permanent and final, so there is no further contact between our daughter and her biological mother.
Our daughter was three and a half when we went to court with our children and extended family to receive the adoption decree. She heard us talking non-stop about a court order, but what she thought was that we were going to buy her a tortoise since the words are homophones in Hebrew. We explained that now we would all have the same last name, and when we returned home, we bought her a tortoise.
For me, the adoption was just a formality. Nothing in my heart changed - from the first time I saw her, she was, and still is, my daughter.”
“I believe that DNA doesn’t make a family, as proven by the fact that my daughter’s biological mother could not overcome her issues, even though she had a biological bond with my daughter. In my opinion, genetics means potential, while the environment has a stronger, more significant impact.
In recent years, I meet foster mothers as part of my work, I share my experience in fostering and the knowledge I gained. I give them tools to cope with fostering and encourage them to change their perspective in some cases. Everyone who helps us take care of our children is a human angel. We have the same interest at heart, and we have to work hand in hand with the social workers and our support network. I always make sure to express my gratitude and give credit to those who were part of our lives throughout this intense and emotional fostering and adoption process. In the end, everyone means well and has a good heart, even if the way is paved with challenges and differences of opinion.
From the beginning, I believed that whatever happened would be for the best. Even if the little girl were to be with us for just a few years, we would make the most out of our time with her.
We are very open and discuss everything at home. Anything and everything can be addressed. I always act out of love and continuously learn to overcome any fears that may crop up.”
“In recent years, I have reflected on the reasons I was so motivated to pursue fostering and adoption. My mother always told me that she had wanted to adopt but would eventually get scared and change her mind. As the eldest of five children, I remember being 12 when my parents took in a troubled teen and were awarded guardianship to help turn his life around rather than be remanded to the juvenile detention system. I wondered how my mother, who had five children, could still be so hesitant about our decision to foster a child.
But as time passed, uncertainty turned into certainty. Today, I am proud of what we’ve accomplished as a family and as individuals. We all gained from this experience. My adoptive child is the girl I always dreamed of having, and she is deeply loved and cherished, just like our other children, and that will never change.”
Galia’s adopted daughter rides horses and volunteers at a stable. The day I sent Galia the edited story with her photos, her daughter graduated 6th grade and celebrated her Bat Mitzvah with friends and family. It was a happy and joyous event.
As I left Galia’s studio nestled among the eucalyptus trees, I knew that the jewelry I would create for her would represent this haven where she works and creates. I designed five glass leaves, one for each family member, and a gold leaf representing the girl who uniquely stood out from the rest. The gold leaf symbolizes the tiny baby who had been taken in by this family and became a connecting link between its members.
Photo: Zohar Ron