After more than two years in foster care, sisters Giselle, 11, and Samantha, 9, have found their “forever home,” just in time for Christmas.

Sitting in the family room of their home Thursday, Giselle and Samantha recited lines from the popular movie “A Christmas Story.”

“I triple dog dare you,” Samantha said.

“I can’t move my arms,” Giselle said, while flapping her arms to her side, imitating a scene of the movie in which Ralfie Parker’s little brother, Randy, wore multiple layers of winter clothes.

The sisters are sharing an exciting holiday season with their new permanent family, Mary and Randy Nelson of Milton.

The Nelsons, who are friends of the girls’ biological family, have served as Giselle and Samantha’s foster family for more than two years. They have known the family from church since Samantha was in diapers. This is their third Christmas together, but the first since the official adoption on Dec. 11.

“Now we’re their daughters,” Giselle smiled.

Crystal Polk, the family’s caseworker at Families First Network, said the girls’ biological father passed away, and the biological mother was unable to care for the girls, which led the Nelsons to take them into their home.

There have been 61 children adopted in Santa Rosa County between July 2011 and June 2012, said Teresa Hess, lead unit manager at Families First Network. But 15 children are still unmatched in foster care without an identified adoption family.

Mary Nelwon said adopting the girls was not something she had in mind from the start, but it was God’s perfect will that allowed it to happen.
“We had always loved the girls before, but we got so attached,” she said. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, but God has blessed us. They are good girls that love the Lord.”

The Nelsons have two older daughters, ages 25 and 27, which means the younger ones have brought back familiar routines, such as registering for school and helping with homework.

“We’re not totally starting over,” Mary said. “We’re just starting midway.”

School is now a source of pride for the girls, who are earning A’s and B’s. They both hope to go to college in the future, and Giselle said she wants to one day be a social worker.

“I want to help other kids and comfort those who are in situations like me or worse,” she said.

The family has had plenty of time to bond while fostering the girls. There is a routine: They pitch in and do chores around the house — washing dishes, dusting and sweeping. They even poke fun at their older sisters.

When Randy gets home from work, the girls and their older sister Toni, 25, race out the door to greet him first. “They’re always fighting for attention,” said Toni’s fiancé, Aaron King.

Although many days are full of playing board games and going to cheerleading practice and church, Mary said the difficult times have brought them closer than anything.

In September, Giselle’s appendix ruptured.

“You really don’t know how much you love them until you have to think about losing them,” Mary said. “It really deepened our bond. I was the one that was holding her hair back when she was throwing up and helping her to the bathroom.”

Giselle agreed.

“She only left twice to get the doctor and use the bathroom,” she said.

The girls will not be able to see their biological mother until they are 18 years old, and they say they don’t remember much from their old home.
“All I remember is that we always ate dinner by ourselves in different rooms,” Giselle said.

Although it took a while to get accustomed to going to bed early, eating dinner and making their beds, the girls are flourishing in their permanent home.

For information on adopting a foster child, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 800-962-3678.