Chosen Stories
6 December 2022

Emma’s Story

Chosen - Adoption | Foster & Orphan Care Outreach | Mentoring

Emma’s Story: From confusion and chaos to a healthy home

Emma’s meltdowns and tantrums confused her foster and adoptive parents — until Chosen showed them how to help her heal from trauma.

Unexpected mood swings. Utter confusion. A strained marriage…

It’s not what Jacky and Kyle Hernandez expected when they decided to foster a baby girl named Emma.* They were excited for the care and cuddles, the love and attachment. But tears of frustration? Those came as a surprise. And for a while it seemed the challenges would never end.

But then — thankfully, miraculously — they discovered Chosen.

“Love at first sight”

Jacky first met Emma’s dad at work. Kyle was great company, and he reminded Jacky of her own five sons. But he was also struggling.

Substance abuse, housing and financial hardships plagued Kyle. His girlfriend had spent a short time in jail, which meant Child Protective Services was in their lives as they tried their best to care for Emma.

Desperate to help, Jacky gave Kyle rides home from work. She bought groceries and baby supplies, and even began to watch Emma from time to time. “It was love at first sight,” she says of her relationship with the baby.

So when Kyle asked the Hernandez family to care of Emma full-time, they didn’t hesitate to say “yes.” They were thrilled to provide a loving home for the baby while Kyle and his girlfriend spent time in a rehab program. They quickly completed background checks, had a home study done and baby-proofed their home.

“She felt like our daughter, and we were willing to do anything to protect her,” Jacky says. 

Little did they know what lay ahead.

A few months — plus multiple years

First, the temporary foster care arrangement turned into two years of full-time care. Then, the courts decided it would not be safe for Emma to return to live with her birth parents.

So Jacky and Kevin did what thousands of other foster parents in their situation have done: They adopted Emma. The Hernandez’s continued a relationship with her birth family, but  Emma was now their daughter. And they care for her deeply. So it was only natural to foresee a future full of laughter and love.

What Jacky and her husband didn’t realize was that, even as a baby, Emma had suffered severe trauma.

“She could go from completely calm to the next minute shaking”

In her new home, Emma was surrounded by love. Her adoptive parents continued to keep her connected to her birth parents, and did all they could to surround her with support. 

Still, things got rocky.

“She could go from completely calm to the next minute shaking because she was so mad,” Jacky says. “We didn’t know what to do or how to help her calm down.”

The Hernandez’s tried everything they could think of to alleviate Emma’s temper tantrums and mood swings. But even after using the same parenting techniques that had worked for their five sons, they were at a loss. And they often wondered if they were doing the right thing.

Friends and family gave advice. “You’re just not used to little girls,” they said. “She’s been through a lot,” they offered.

None of it helped. And as the months sped by, things went from bad to worse.

“With everything going on, we experienced strain in our marriage – things were not clicking,” Jacky recalls. “I didn’t feel well-equipped to parent her unique needs.”

That’s when a friend mentioned an organization called Chosen. And everything changed.

Having the right tools changed everything

Turns out, parenting a foster or adoptive child is not the same as parenting a birth child. The reason? Abuse, neglect, and the loss of a parent changes a child’s brain and body. And while it may seem like those factors are irrelevant to young children who are fostered as babies, the trauma is in fact a very real part of their lives.

Jacky and Kevin learned this after reaching out to Chosen, an organization that specializes in helping families heal from trauma. They were immediately assigned a care manager — one who had also adopted a child through foster care.

The couple started attending weekly meetings — and their world began to change. 

“Our care manager’s real-life experiences were so human and relatable,” Jacky says. “She knew exactly what we were feeling.”

They began to understand why Emma’s behavior would escalate so quickly. Together, the adoptive parents learned to recognize clues that a meltdown was coming and were given life-changing tools to help Emma overcome her hurt.

Their care manager even created a custom plan with activities and techniques to use when Emma’s emotions began to spiral. She also provided a recommendation for marriage counseling, which helped Kevin and Jacky open up to each other. They worked on becoming a team in helping their child heal rather than fighting when frustrated. 

Meanwhile, Emma herself improved significantly. She connected quickly with her own therapist and learned how to talk about her feelings instead of reacting when things got tough.

Most importantly, Chosen gave them all assurance that things would get better. Kevin and Jacky learned from a care manager who could empathize with their frustrations thanks to her own personal adoption journey. And Emma learned new skills to manage overwhelming emotions.

It all made for a united approach — and a healthier, more peaceful home.

Together we can heal from heartbreak

While it may sound too good to be true, Emma’s story is real — and far from unique. Caring for a child with unique challenges can be isolating and overwhelming. Once Chosen stepped in, the Hernandez family felt understood and supported in their journey to help Emma heal.

“Chosen equipped me to be a better person everywhere,” Jacky says. “I even learned how to approach my older biological children differently.”


Every year, Chosen helps hundreds of foster and adoptive families thrive. And we’re looking for partners to help heal their heartbreak. Your gift gives families the assurance they need to provide attachment and permanency for kids who desperately need it.

Looking for help? Get started here.

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