Brother, Sister Find Forever Family

Every family is different – none are the same, which is what makes the true meaning of “family” special. Family, although it should be a safe haven for all, is not always beautiful. It can be heartbreaking, uncomfortable and painful.

For Journie Lombardi, a sophomore at Fredericksburg High School and her little brother Chase, there was displacement, case workers, and 10 different foster homes in the span of three years. Skotti and Tony Lombardi sought to fulfill the dream they had—to give children without a home, a home.

Although they already had three biological daughters of their own, they wanted to give those who weren’t as fortunate, a place to feel safe. While Skotti and her husband, Tony, who is a former member of the Air Force, were completing an assignment at NASA for the military, Skotti was teaching special education to students in Life Skills.

“During that time, I learned many of my students were in the foster care system,” Skotti said. “They would tell me their stories of the system, and my heart would break.”

Skotti had been inspired and throttled with emotion by the children, whose lives had been torn apart due to unstable family situations and asked her husband what he thought about fostering.

“He would tell me that we couldn’t do that because we were still in the Air Force, and we would be moving again,” Skotti said.

Eventually, Tony retired from the Air Force in 2017 to focus on caring for one of their daughters, who was born with many cognitive disabilities. Tony then took a position at the Gillespie County Airport as the manager.

“One day he was waiting to present some items for the Gillespie County court,” Skotti said. “CASA, which is a foster volunteer program, was presenting, and he heard the stories and their need. He came home that night and said he wanted to foster.”

Skotti and Tony both conversed about what they wanted to do and knew in that moment, if a child needed them, the Lombardis’ would adopt.

After months and months of dedication to classes, home studies, psychological testing, and an eventual certification, their arms and home was open to fostering. Before encountering Journie and Chase, the Lombardis’ fostered two sets of children.

“Their stories were heartbreaking,” Skotti said. “You fall in love with the kids you foster.”

Eventually, they were ready to foster more children. The case workers and foster parents use a website to see who is in need of adoption and if they would match the living situation.

“The website gives you very basic information about the child or children – gender, interest, region they are located, and their first name,” Skotti said. “Almost immediately, I found Journie and Chase, who were from Abilene. That is where my husband grew up and two of our biological daughters were born.”

Immediately, Skotti and Tony found common interest with the children and sent their caseworker information. After months and months of silence, trickling amounts of information, a judge ordered them out of the shelter in which they were placed.

“Their caseworker called and set up a FaceTime call with the kids to see how we all interacted,” Skotti said. “It was supposed to be about 30 minutes, but ended up being over an hour.”

The soon-to-be family had so much in common, which only helped the Lombardis’ endeavors to give them a home.

“The next day, we heard Journie and Chase CHOSE to come live with us with the intention of us adopting them provided the placement was successful,” Skotti said. “I could go on forever about how wonderful Chase and Journie are.”

The brother-and-sister duo, after spending many long, hard days in foster care, came to live with the Lombardis’ on March 24, 2021. They were officially adopted, becoming a part of the Lombardi family, on January 26, 2022.

16- year-old Journie Lombardi and her 9-year-old brother Chase were placed into the foster care system in October 2018, at the young ages of 12 and 5—a most unfortunate situation for any child to go through. For Journie, her experience was not unlike the misfortunes almost all foster children feel every day.

“The foster care system was frustrating and annoying,” Journie said. “We had a new caseworker every week ,and we had a new home every four months.”

Sadly, the siblings were not together in foster care the entire time. As many cases go, they were separated and put in at different times.

“My brother was placed into foster care four months after me,” Journie said. “It was so worrying for me. I couldn’t see him, and I felt out of place without him.”

When she found out they were going to be adopted by Skotti and Tony, she was almost in disbelief.

“It was hard for me during my time in foster care; it was hard to trust,” Journie said. “When I found out my brother and I were going to be adopted, it was hard to believe at first, then it became exciting and emotional.”

Their new life as a part of the Lombardi family gives them a new way to think of family, and the many forms it comes in.

“At first, it was difficult to think we were now ‘Journie and Chase Lombardi,’ but I am so thankful and happy for the life we have now,” Journie said. “We are stable, and we finally feel ‘normal.’”