Two Families Give Children A Second Chance at Love

By: Amelia Nahmias Email
By: Amelia Nahmias Email

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TIMBERVILLE, Va. (WHSV) -- For seven years, Jayden Birch chased the dream of one day finding a place to call home.

"It's a mystery all the time, it's basically a mystery," said Jayden.

He was seven years old he was removed from an abusive home and then spent the next seven years in and out of foster care across the state in four different foster homes.

"Last one before that, that wasn't going to be a permanent. The last one before that the woman locked me in my room. And the last one before that they threw me outside," said Jayden.

A heart breaking story for Gillian Birch-Lee to hear; a Timberville mother who has opened her door to so many other teen foster children in the Valley.

"I couldn't imagine being in their shoes. I could not imagine being that age, and having nobody. It's not like they can pick up the phone and call their parents or their grandparents. They're taken away from everything that they know," said Birch-Lee.

When she first met him, it was tough, but Gillian wouldn't give up on him.

"I could see that he was a very angry young man, and to be honest, I couldn't blame him. So, I said to myself, if he's willing to work at it, then so am I and we can make this work," said Birch-Lee.

"I was nervous and mad because I didn't want to be adopted at the same time because I was afraid that it was going to happen over and over," said Jayden.

For Mahala Alt, her life was very different.

"I just remember somebody holding me, that's all I remember," said Mahala.

As a baby in Romania, Mahala Alt's birth mother left her at an orphanage hoping to give her a better life.

It came at just the right time for Patricia Alt, who couldn't have her own little girl and wasn't having any luck adopting here in the United States.

"In the states it's just very complicated, so doors just started opening to adopt in Romania," said Patricia.

She was concerned about attachment issues and how difficult adopting older children can be.

A common issue social worker Dawn Keister sees working with children of all ages.

"The older kids have seen more, experienced more, and sometimes their behavior can be a little more extreme," said Keister.

Luckily for the Alts, they were able to create the family they were looking for and give Mahala the life she deserves.

"She's been remarkable, she really has," said Patricia.

Jayden and Mahala have come leaps and bounds since being adopted.

Like any mother, Patricia spends time getting Mahala up to speed with her school work.

"When we brought her home she was two and a half, but she was developmentally a six month," said Patricia.

But for Jayden, it wasn't as easy.

Having been through multiple homes and heartbreaks, he struggled with behavior issues landing him in treatment centers.

Even though they've been adopted, past lives leave kids with questions.

"I've always wanted to know what my real mom was like. Was she a singer? What was she good at?" said Mahala.

Some of the questions may never be answered.

Jayden wonders about his two little sisters he hasn't seen in seven years.

'Not very concerned, but I know that they can fend for themselves," said Jayden.

While finding what we call home isn't always easy, Jayden can finally call Gillian mom.

"He always calls me mom, yea, I'm mom. He's been calling me mom from day one. I'm mom," said Birch-Lee.

While both have different life experiences, they have one thing in common.

They were both adopted into loving homes.

"It's that unconditional love that someone like Jayden needs," said Birch-Lee

"My mom has told me that she loves me and that's all I think an adopted person wants to hear," said Mahala.

"I often think to myself, where would they be if I didn't have them here. I know where they are, I know I can keep them safe," said Birch-Lee. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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