When she got the call from child services and learned what her neighbor had done, she didn’t know what to think. With tears running down her face, she called out for her husband. He found her by the phone, hysterical.
They thought they were prepared for the adoption process, but neither of them had expected this.
Stories about children are always very moving. However, this one is quite the rollercoaster. One family set out to help others, but ultimately ended up forever changing the lives of four young boys — siblings to be exact.
The couple could never have predicted how things would pan out. The whole story starts with a woman called Julie Washington.
Meet The Washingtons
Georgia residents Julie Washington and her husband, B.J., already had two children of their own. Julie worked as a night-shift nurse, and B.J. was a research assistant at the University of Georgia.
On top of their demanding careers, the couple also had to care for their two young daughters, Ryan and Reid.
To the Washingtons, family meant everything. Julia and her husband had always dreamed of having a large family one day and were keen to expand their family even further.
However, they decided that, rather than conceive more babies of their own, they wanted to go about growing their family in a less traditional way…
Growing Their Family
“We decided to grow our family through adoption,” Julie explained to ABC News in 2016. When they heard about three siblings who had been in foster care for over four years, they didn’t hesitate.
And so The Washingtons began the process of adopting the three young brothers. The couple got to know the boys and it wasn’t long before they had fallen in love.
In 2015, the couple adopted 6-year-old Michael and his 5-year-old sister Jess, and 4-year-old brother Cameron. With the paperwork signed and being processed, everything was going well and seemed to be going according to plan.
The Washingtons were excited that their family was about to grow from four to seven. Or at least, that’s how it seemed.
Julie and B.J. were excitedly preparing for the three new members of their family and were ecstatic about the situation. But then, they got a call from Children’s Protective Services that rocked their world.
As it turned out, they had completely overlooked something when they decided to adopt the siblings. They were in for a shock.
When Julie heard the news, she felt her world begin to crumble around her. After months of paperwork and planning, they thought that they had prepared for everything.
The agency told the devastated Washingtons that Michael, Jess, and Camden had a younger brother. The toddler’s name was Elijah. There had been four siblings, not three. What did that mean?
The agency explained that 17-month-old Elijah hadn’t been placed in his forever home. They were hopeful that the Washingtons could find it in their hearts to adopt one more child — they didn’t want to separate the toddler from his brothers.
The proposition came as a complete shock to Julie and B.J. How could they leave little Elijah behind?
The couple hated the idea of the siblings being separated like that. The thought of them being split up kept them up at night. They wanted to bring all of them into their family and help them make a home. There was only one problem.
They just didn’t have the means to increase their family from seven to eight. What could they do?
“It broke my heart, but I just didn’t feel we could do it,” Julie told People in 2016. “We’d already gone from two kids to five – one with special needs. I felt we’d be overwhelmed and somebody wouldn’t get the attention they deserved.”
Julie was terribly broken up by the situation. The separation of these siblings was a terrible burden and she shared the story with everyone she met. The story made the rounds and eventually came full circle.
Julie was determined to do something about little Elijah. She sought advice from her family and friends.
The story eventually reached the ears of Julia’s neighbor, Jay Houston. But the way she reacted to the details about the Washingtons’ adopted children would ultimately surprise everyone in the neighborhood. She did something nobody saw coming.
Jay, who worked as a photographer, was also a very family-oriented woman. And, in a strange twist of fate, she had also adopted three of her five children. She also believed that it was a very tragic situation. Both women wanted to help the baby and find a way to keep him close to his other siblings.
However, neither of them had any clue how they could do that.
Sharing Her Feelings
Julie explained her dilemma to Jay over the phone. She poured her heart out to her friend, expressing her concern that Elijah would end up far away from his biological siblings.
As much as Julie wanted to adopt little Elijah, it simply wasn’t practical. Not only did they already have a full house, but the sister, Jess, had cerebral palsy as well. Her condition meant that she needed a lot of special care. It seemed like an impossible situation.
While on the phone, Jay did her best to reassure the distraught mom. She told her that they would make a plan to ensure that Julie’s boys knew their little brother.
But when she got off the phone with Julie, she couldn’t stop thinking about how she could solve the seemingly insurmountable problem. She mulled over it for three days, but she still didn’t have an answer. Until one fateful night.
Jay was lying in her bed thinking about the situation when she suddenly sat bolt upright as an idea came to mind. She had spent a lot of time thinking of all the possibilities and how the siblings could be close together.
Now, she finally knew. She immediately dialed the 24-hour Child Care Services line.
One Big Family
“We’d like to adopt Elijah so that he can be close to his brothers and they can know each other growing up. We can all be one big family,” Jay explained.
And when Julie got that call from Child Care Services informing her that her neighbor had offered to adopt little Elijah, she couldn’t believe her ears.
When Julie learned what her neighbor had done, she didn’t know what to think. With tears of joy running down her face, she called her husband.
Jay figured that if she adopted little Elijah, the siblings might not be in the same house but they would be close together. This way, they could still be a family even though different families were raising them. Jay didn’t want to say anything to Julia because she was scared that she would think she was crazy.
“It was such a gift from Jay and [her husband] George,” Julie told People. “The love and gratitude that I felt was overpowering.”
Now, Julie could tell her three boys all about their little brother, who they hadn’t even known about. But Jay had another very personal reason for wanting to help Elijah and his three brothers…
You see, Jay’s parents had adopted her as a child. She had grown up in a loving family with six other siblings. But she couldn’t help but wonder about her biological brothers and sisters that she would never get to meet.
She didn’t want the same fate for the four adopted boys. She was prepared to do anything to ensure that they grew up together.
“I know what it feels like to look at your family and not see anybody who looks like you,” Jay explained to People.
“It’s true that love makes a family, but it’s undeniable that biology does, too. It shouldn’t be a privilege to grow up with your siblings, and I wanted to give Elijah that chance.”
So, in March 2016, Julie and Jay’s adoptions came through — on the very same day! Now, Elijah lives right around the corner from his three brothers.
And, as a result, the siblings of the Houston and Washington families have become closer than ever. The two clans even meet every week to play soccer and spend every birthday and Thanksgiving together.
A Happy Ending
“The adoption of all four boys has joined our two families for life,” B.J. told People. “Our main goal is to make sure they have the bond that brothers would have in a traditional family.”
“There was no way we could have known the way that everything would work out,” Jay said. “We just had faith that it would. We’re committed that our boys will grow up knowing and loving each other. Just like brothers should.