The value of gratitude through the eyes of Jean Dahlia, my adoption story

Emily Regalado, Volunteer Reporter

Jean Dahlia Cobb, a freshman at the University of North Florida, shares her story on the mental struggle and growth of an adopted child in America, and how gratitude has always been the center of her life, not only during the holiday season. During the holiday season, the values of giving, receiving, and gratitude are emphasized greatly among loved ones. Gratitude does not just extend to an appreciative thank you for a neatly tied gift or roasted turkey. On a deeper level, it translates into being thankful for life itself. 

Eighteen years ago, in New York, her birth mother conceived Jean who was her sixth child that she was incapable of raising. She struggled with schizophrenia and other mental health issues that prevented her from raising her children, who were adopted by family members. Jean’s father was never in the picture, his real identity unknown. Jean explains, “My birth mother simply can’t remember, she’s incapable of doing so.” She shares how just recently she found out her grandmother, who has since died, knew of his identity. However, to protect Jean, did not reveal so in court. Jean was put into the foster care system until the age of four with a woman who wanted to adopt her. Instead, her great aunt and uncle ended up adopting her while also having previously adopted one of her sisters. Her foster mom gifted her a gold necklace of her name “Jean Dahlia” in delicate handwriting. It was lost and then replaced by the one her great aunt gave her, a beacon for her new life awaiting. 

 Jean Dahlia on her fourth birthday as an officially adopted child, after her move to Florida.

Her six siblings, the Gamboas, would reunite every year on holidays to play their tradition of a soccer match and take a picture squeezed together. It was as Jean described, one of the few times a year she was reunited with her family, she even would see her birth mother.

“Everyone’s situation is different, but every adopted kid is going to wonder where they come from, who they look like, but that’s okay because they are being loved and that love fills in those empty parts,” she said.

Jean considers her great aunt and uncle her parents and Jean never resented her birth mother, but rather was beyond grateful for giving her the opportunity for a healthy life. She appreciates her family’s efforts in getting her to this point even though they never made it that far to college themselves. Jean explains how college is a path to find your self-identity. For her, it is a path to pursue her passions in college and to raise awareness for the lives of those in the foster care system, adopted children, and struggling mothers. She is studying to be a midwife to help mothers during their pregnancies. She wants the mothers who are looking for options to know this, “I am a good product of adoption, my birth mother was never a bad mom for giving her kids up for adoption.”

 Jean Dahlia, as a child, with her beloved “mom” (great aunt) holding her baby doll.

For those looking to adopt, don’t be afraid to have conversations with your child on a deeper level about the adoption by validating their feelings and fears even if they are uncomfortable or feel selfish. 

“Don’t allow for that feeling of disconnection,” Jean relayed. 

Even if adoption is not a path you choose to follow, Jean’s story and the individual stories of every adopted child can reveal to you the meaning of connection in your life. The connection is founded on sacrifice and reinforced with gratitude. These values lay at the center of your tables when you reunite with your family during the holidays or even when you simply reach out to your own parents. 

Learn more about the process, benefits, and specifics of adoption at the Florida Department of Children and Families, Explore Adoption (adoptflorida .org). The FDCF offers free college tuition for adopted students until the age of 28. It is more affordable compared to private forms of adoption, and it is a legally secure way to save a life. 


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