After years of watching ‘Wednesday’s Child,’  a weekly news feature about local children available for  adoption, Bernadette Graham decided to attend an orientation at the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency. “Over the years, I saw the same children featured on ‘Wednesday’s Child,’ Graham says. ” realized these children were growing up in foster care. I knew I had to something about it.”

Graham had reached her 40s without having children of her own, but she had helped family members raise their children and knew she could be a good parent. She had a successful career, traveled, and spent time with her family, but she still felt something was missing from her life. On “Wednesday’s Child,” she saw many District children who needed permanent homes. “Some people may be hesitant about adopting because they don’t know what to expect from children in foster care,” says Graham. “Well, they’re great kids with many layers. Once you start pulling back the layers, you quickly see their potential.”

“I didn’t decide to adopt immediately,” Graham remembers. “It took time. I thought about it for years. It was a desire that grew in my heart. I decided to do something about that desire, so I started attending the classes to become an adoptive parent.”

Not long after completing classes through CFSA, Graham began “fostering to adopt,” a process that allows people interested in adopting to be foster parents first. It was during this process that she met sisters Lisa, 9, and Linda, 13*, who were hoping to be adopted. Graham started having day visits with the girls that led to overnight stays on weekends. In time, the weekend visits became permanent when the girls moved in to Graham’s home. “When I went to pick them up for a visit, they ran down the stairs to greet me. It was then I knew they were for me,” Graham says of Lisa and Linda.

Graham’s life is full now that the sisters are her daughters. She still enjoys traveling and spending time with her family, but she now takes the girls along because they are part of her family. “I keep the girls extremely active,” Graham reports. “We go to the pool, on picnics, to the movies, and to church events. We also spend a lot of time just talking. Talking helps us really get to know each other. Even when we get upset with each other, we keep the doors of communication open. When you close, you’re keeping anger in. Open doors allow the anger to get out and forgiveness and acceptance to come in. Parenting is about patience, understanding, and communication.”

“The first time they called me ‘Mom’ is a day I’ll never forget,” Graham says. “Lisa kept saying ‘Mom! Mom!’ and I didn’t know who she was talking to until Linda said, ‘Mom, don’t you hear Lisa calling you?’ When they called me ‘Mom’ and I knew they were talking to me, all I could do was cry and think: Wow, I’m a mother, and these are my girls. I no longer have the quietness of living alone, but I love hearing them call me ‘Mom.’”

*Names changed to protect confidentiality

*Photography by Ezra Gregg