Thanksgiving came early to a Texas teenager who has been in the state’s foster care system since he was nine. His former high school teacher decided to adopt and became his forever mom last weekend.
Sixteen-year-old Anthony said he never wanted to be adopted. Most older kids age out of the foster care system when they turn 18-years-old and Anthony fit the profile. He lived in foster care since 2010 so he never imagined a future with a permanent and loving family. However, all that changed last year when he met his high school English teacher, Bennie Berry, at the Pathways Learning Center in the Beaumont Independent School District.
“I did not think the day would ever come because of the fact that I did not want to be adopted,” he told KBMT at the Jefferson County Courthouse on Saturday.
“Then, I met my mom,” said Anthony. “And I started talking to her and it just started to click.”
At first, Berry thought Anthony was joking. “Until he actually explained his situation and then we struck a deal,” she said. Berry recalled telling the teen: “Finish your assignment, then you can show me the website.”
The Texas Adoption Resource Exchange provides information to prospective and interested candidates on how to become a foster or adoptive parent. Berry learned that adoption really was an option and said, “so we pushed forward.”
Since 2000, the Saturday before Thanksgiving is National Adoption Day, an event that seeks to raise awareness of the more than 110,000 minors in U.S. foster care who hope to find forever families. Texas cities hold Adoption Day events, including in Beaumont where the Jefferson County Courthouse sported a “Wizard of Oz” theme and the children followed the “Yellow Brick Road” that lead them to District Court Judge Larry Thorne’s courtroom, according to KBMT. Anthony was the oldest of the 18 children adopted at the courthouse that day. The youngest was almost 1-year-old.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the number of children adopted from state care grew by 34 percent over the past decade. So far in 2017, 5,395 abused or neglected children in the state were adopted out of foster care, although 6,685 children and teens still await finding families.
One day before the formal adoption hearing, a very excited and soon-to-become first-time mother Berry posted on her Facebook page: “It’s a boy,” alongside a photograph of herself and Anthony.
Now, Anthony has a whole new perspective about adoption, realizing it is never too late to find your family. “If you have ever thought about adoption or didn’t want to be adopted, actually, try it, because you never know,” he said. “Take into consideration that someone who doesn’t love you, there is always someone that will love you.”
“I love you, Anthony,” said Berry to her son amid the Adoption Day festivities in the courthouse.
“I love you, too, mom.”
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