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

Reporter becomes part of ‘forever family’ at adoption awareness event.

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.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Lifestyle

Today’s birthdays - Sunday, March 18
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, March 18

Today’s Birthdays: Composer John Kander is 91. Country singer Charley Pride is 84. Nobel peace laureate and former South African president F.W. de Klerk is 82. Country singer Margie Bowes is 77. Actor Kevin Dobson is 75. Actor Brad Dourif is 68. Jazz musician Bill Frisell is 67. Singer Irene Cara is 59. Alt-country musician Karen Grotberg (The...
Today’s horoscopes - Sunday, March 18

ARIES (March 21-April 19). Knowledge is the bread of life, and taking action is the meaty part of the sandwich. But constant action will be the thing that makes a difference. No one can live long off one sandwich. TAURUS (April 20-May 20). The change you desire is coming, though not immediately. Don’t worry about the schedule. Every time you...
Dear Abby - Sunday, March 18

Dear Abby: I’m a disabled middle-aged woman, married for 15 years. From the beginning, there was never much passion between my husband and me, but we’re friends. I’m now becoming less able to go out and do things, and I will eventually be wheelchair-bound. I want to leave him so he can find someone who is able to do things with him...
Kerri Walsh Jennings launches new volleyball event series p1440
Kerri Walsh Jennings launches new volleyball event series p1440

Kerri Walsh Jennings has launched an event series called p1440. Photo courtesy p1440   Add Kerri Walsh Jennings to the list of celebs who landed in Austin this week during South by Southwest. The professional beach volleyball player, who has three gold and one bronze Olympic medal to her name, came to launch her new p1440 beach volleyball...
Family builds fun Austin backyard a bit at a time
Family builds fun Austin backyard a bit at a time

From the front, the Lifford family’s South Austin yard looks fairly typical, with plenty of grass and a tree with a swing hanging from it. But stepping into the backyard, visitors see a transformation, with raised beds, a fire pit area, crushed granite pathways and whimsical embellishments. “It’s a magical place for the kids to explore...
More Stories