Christie Werts, 48, met her now-husband Wesley, 45, five years ago and the two blended their families – including Christie’s children Megan, 21, and Vance, 15, and Wesley’s two children, Austin, 14, and Dakota, 10.
But when Wesley’s ex-wife and mother of Austin and Dakota – who he had separated from in 2015 – sadly died after struggling with addiction issues, they made a huge decision: welcoming her newborn baby, Levi, into the family.
Now, Christie has gone on to legally adopt the tot as of January 2023 and is raising him as her own.
“When I heard about Levi, without hesitation I said we should take him,” Christie, who works in IT and lives in Ohio, told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
“I myself was a foster kid and, although for the most part I had a great experience, I did not want him going to foster care.
“My husband did not really speak to the biological mum’s family often, but she had Levi on a Monday and passed away that Friday. We lived in another state at the time so we sold our home in Ohio and rented a house in Texas because we had to officially foster to adopt him. So we did – the process took 16 months.”
Christie had previously been in the foster system herself from the age of 15, which helped influence her decision.
She added: “Although, my experience was overall as good as it can be in foster care, I just knew I loved my stepkids enough to make sure they got to be with their half-brother. I did not want Levi to end up in the foster care system.”
But that isn’t to say she didn’t have reservations initially. She said: “If I said I did not [have concerns beforehand], that would not be honest.
“I love kids and bonded with my stepkids real quick. I also was in love with my bio kids at first sight.
“This was different – I was going to walk into a child I never met and was worried the circumstances would hinder this ‘instant love’. But … he stole my heart. I also felt this intense need to protect him.”
Levi, now almost two, was made an official member of the family in January 2023 when the adoption papers went through.
Christie said: “We already felt he was our son. But on paper, he was a child with no first name, no birth certificate, and was a ward of the state. Just to know he would have a birth certificate [and] a legal first name was very emotional.
“I had dreams about him before we even knew about him. We prayed for him, so here was the moment we feel god had planned.”
According to the family, Levi is thriving in his new home.
Christie added: “He’s great, he is the king of the house! We are all very close. He won’t understand the journey right now, but someday I will let him know we fought for him! The kids are living a normal life again, no case workers, inspections – just sports and friends.”
And in terms of anyone looking to do, or doing the same thing, Christie said: “First, make sure your relationship is super solid before you introduce the kids. I think my husband and I both made the mistake of introducing people [former partners] to our kids, just for that person to not be around anymore.
“They may have other parents but treat those kids as if they were yours – that’s important for both you and your partner. The process to adopt from foster care is not for the faint of heart. I read a comment once that someone said people adopt out of selfishness for themselves, not the child.
“You must have that desire for a child [but] a desire to want, love and care for a child at any age has to be just as important as helping a child. Take each day at a time because the system is not perfect.”
The family have also shared some clips of their journey on TikTok, (@cjthemom5), where in one video she shares a moment of Levi as a baby in an incubator after his premature birth.
The post was captioned: “I wasn’t sure if I would be able to bond adopting my husband’s ex-wife’s baby.”
After the clip of Levi as a baby, Christie then shares pictures and moments of them together as he grows up.
The video gained 900,000 views as well as 30,000 likes.
One person said: “My heart melted. What an amazing story. Your little guy is absolutely beautiful.”
Another added: “Your mother is not who gave birth to you but who raises and loves you and there all the time.”
Someone else wrote: “You took a very sad story, and made it a love story!!! God Bless you!”
“Congrats on your bundle of joy. Some babies are born from the belly and some from the heart,” another viewer added.
Christie said: “I am currently working on a book about my life as a foster kid, my husband and I having mother with addiction troubles.
“Including our adoption story – which is a tragic and beautiful story.”