The date and the time were set. April 16th, 2016 at 9AM.
We arrived early, everyone was dressed up and ready to go. We were happy and excited, though walking past the security guards and metal detectors provided reminders that not all families enter the juvenile court walls for happy reasons and new last names. It was crowded. Last names were posted on signs with a court appearance time. Our name was not on the list. We checked it once, twice, three times afraid we drove to the wrong courthouse and would miss our hearing. Our lawyer, Rita, was there all smiles and joy. She assured us we were in the right place and we would be seen in courtroom 9 at 9AM. We had met her in our PS-MAPP class March, 2015. She gave everyone in the class her card and answered all of our questions. Once we were approved to adopt Brandon she was the first person we called to arrange for representation. She had been here before. She had done this and was now ready to escort us down this exciting and scary road. She knew the way. We had many supporters present that day. A best friend of 30 years, grandparents, aunts, cousins and siblings. Special supporters came just for Brandon: current and past case workers, licensing workers, and a youth advocate whom Brandon holds very near and dear to his heart. They were touched by his story and had hoped he would find a family and a home of his own one day. Today was that day. Atticus, our 8 year old son, kept taunting Brandon with a ‘your getting adopted’ song, but it was all in fun and everyone laughed. Brandon even seemed a little embarrassed by all of the attention, but his smile implied he secretly loved all of it.
The courtroom was small and felt crowded. The judge had a kind face. She must have enjoyed the hearings in her courtroom that day. Everyone there was getting a forever home. All smiles and happy tears. No sad stories today. Our family sat up front with all of our supporters behind us. Ben, Brandon and I spoke before the judge with direction and coaching from Rita. My voice cracked when I spoke. I needed tissues. They had a box of tissues before me on the table. They must have anticipated happy tears in this courtroom today. My tears were happy, but also sad. Sad for the mom and dad who would not get to see their son excel in life and become the best version of himself in our care. Sad he had to endure a lot of hurt and fear along the way to our home.
Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes and it was all over. We were taking pictures and hugging loved-ones around us and moving out of the courtroom never to return. He was a Roat. He was home.