Even Pulido, who lives near Julie and has gotten to know little Zeke, joined in the festivities, walking around the courtroom in shirtsleeves and talking to the cheering group before donning the traditional judge's garments for the proceeding. During much of that time, Zeke, held by his new mother, pounded on the table and exchanged smiling facial glances with the judge. Behind Julie in the courtroom were friends and associates from Sunset Elementary School in Livermore, where she has taught for the last 19 years, and her parents, Realtor Tom Fox and his wife Sue, both active in community leadership efforts in the Tri-Valley.
Foster care is not for everybody, Julie said later. Those who choose to become a foster or adoptive parent embark on one of the most fulfilling relationships with a child, providing loving homes at a time in their lives when they most need unconditional love. It's also a risk. When you qualify as a foster parent and come home with a needy child, it may be for two days or you might have him forever. Julie agreed to that when she picked up Zeke at Highland Hospital, where county officials had taken him away from his unwed parents who were on drugs and into prostitution.
By law, a biological parent is given opportunities to straighten their lives out and seek to regain the child. Zeke's mother tried, but at county Social Services hearings scheduled six months apart, she failed to make the cut. Zeke's father never tried. In the end, the agency determined that Zeke would be in a better situation with Julie than his birth parents could provide, and allowed the adoption process to go forward.
Now Julie is hoping to adopt Zoey, 3, who she was assigned as a foster care parent when the baby was 17 months old. Zoey was in what the county's Child Protective Care agency called "a neglectful situation." She had been living mostly on the streets with her homeless and unmarried parents since birth when county officials found her and placed her in foster care. At the time, Julie recalls, Zoey had skivvies, couldn't walk, talk or even crawl although she was 1-1/2 years old. Today, she's a well-fed, healthy 3-year-old. On Dec. 11, the county will hold another hearing to determine if Julie should also be awarded permanent custody of Zoey so that adoption proceedings can begin.
For Julie Fox, 42, who's not married, becoming the parent of two toddlers is quite a lifestyle, but welcome, change. Active in the Cornerstone Fellowship, a large Livermore church, she went on church missions to Africa in recent years, both to Kenya where Cornerstone has an orphanage, and then to Ghana, where it is building a hospital to house medical teams that will go into the bush country to find and treat ailing natives.
Although she's become attached to those missions, serving as a foster parent to two African-American babies had nothing to do with that background. When she applied for a foster care opportunity, she left it open as to who she might receive, leaving the ethnicity, gender, race and all other boxes of requirements unchecked. With a large percentage of the country's 400,000 children and youths in the foster care system, she was not surprised that the two African-Americans she's been called on to nurture are black. She renamed Zeke with Biblical names. Zekiah means "Strengthened by God;" his middle name Jude means "Things hoped for and finally realized."
The name Zoey, who she'll hopefully be able to adopt early next year, stands for, well, just Zoey.