Last year I reported on Adoption Day; today I adopted my son there

3:07 p.m Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 Lifestyle
Ricardo Brazziell
Kristin Finan looks on while holding her son, Kona Badgley-Finan, 9 during the adoption ceremony on Thursday. 44 children celebrated Austin Adoption day with 30 new families and kicked off the National adoption awareness Month at the Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center in Austin on Thursday, Nov. 2 2017. Travis county celebrated with families the 16th annual Austin Adoption Day. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

On Nov. 3, 2016, I walked through the doors of Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center a shell of my former self.

I was attending an uplifting event — the 15th annual Austin Adoption Day, where the city celebrates the creation of “forever families” for children being adopted out of the foster care system — but I was hurting.

The two little girls my husband and I had been foster parents to over the course of an 18-month CPS case and had, for a portion of the case, expected to adopt had just gone back to their biological mother.

At times I felt as empty as the upstairs bedroom where the girls had played, which was disturbingly quiet and void of giggles now that they were gone.

I don’t know why I decided to attend Adoption Day that morning. Maybe because I had some friends going. Maybe because I wanted to make sure I didn’t become bitter. Or maybe, and I think this is the main reason, I needed to see that happy endings were possible.

As I watched the judges declare smiling groups of once unfamiliar people “forever families,” I actually started to feel like myself again.

I talked to people. I let myself laugh. I wrote a story about the event.

None of the families I talked to that day said getting to Adoption Day was easy. But all of them said it was worth it.

Adoption Day, as it turned out, was about love and hope, sure, but also strength and perseverance.

Rather than giving up, I thought, maybe my husband and I and our two biological daughters, then 8 and 5, should try fostering again.

Soon after, we heard about an almost-4-year-old little boy who adored Batman and was in need of a home.

We decided to take a chance.

We transformed the empty bedroom upstairs into a Batcave. We bought every superhero toy we could find. And when he joined our household two days before Christmas, we celebrated.

After the excitement of the holidays was over, reality set in.

Rather than using many words to communicate, our foster son preferred to whine, a survival mechanism he must have developed after years of not being listened to.

Some of our rules were foreign to him, as were some of our traditions.

For those first few months, we rarely heard his voice.

Then, at Easter, our daughters devised a family talent show.

When it was his turn on the backyard patio stage, he beautifully and hauntingly began to recite the words to his favorite song, an Elton John classic he had discovered in the movie “Sing”: “I’m Still Standing.”

He had found his voice.

These days, we get to hear that voice every day, talking incessantly about Batman and agonizing over which flavor of Popsicle to choose.

On Thursday, he used that voice inside a courtroom at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center at the 16th annual Austin Adoption Day to tell the judge he wanted to be part of our “forever family.” Austin Adoption Day is part of a nationwide effort to celebrate families that are welcoming new members from foster care and to draw attention to the continuing need for foster and adoptive homes; we were among 30 families who adopted a total of 44 children at this year’s event.

So what is a “forever family,” anyway?

“It means I get to stay at my new house,” our son said. “Forever.”

As I watched him pose for pictures with his sisters, with whom he now shares a last name, his smile once again reminded me of Steven, the little boy I met as a child who inspired me to become a foster parent in the first place.

What a journey it’s been.

I know there will still be many times when we need to rely on strength and perseverance in addition to hope and love. But I also now know that happy endings exist.

I’m so glad I attended last year’s Adoption Day and learned that lesson. And I’m so glad to be standing here today as a “forever family.”

Most of all, I’m so glad we took a chance on a Batman-loving little boy.

And that he took a chance on us.

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