Dozens of South Florida families filled Miami Children’s Museum Friday morning to change a child’s life and give them a permanent home.
The families adopted 43 children during a National Adoption Day event at the museum, run by Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe and the Florida Department of Children & Families. The families had previously fostered the children.
"Although it's a journey to get here, the thing with adoption is it's just the beginning," said Denise Sasiain, one of the mothers who adopted a little boy Friday. “You can’t wait to make that child forever yours.”
Sasiain and her husband, Pierre, began fostering children about five years ago. They have four children, including 8-month-old Jacob, who was found inside a shopping cart as a newborn. Friday, inside one of the makeshift courtrooms in the museum’s art studio, a judge and magistrate made Jacob an official member of the family.
“Well, we had one more space in our van,” joked Pierre Sasiain. He works for PSAV, an audiovisual company, while his wife, who used to work as a certified public accountant, takes care of their children.
Their other children — 5-year-old Isabella, 3-year-old Xavier, 2-year-old Daniella — were all taken in by the Sasiains as foster children. The Sasiains, who are now in their 40s and 50s, knew they wanted to adopt children, but decided to start fostering to help make a difference. Within a month of becoming licensed foster parents, they were connected with Isabella, whose mother had schizophrenia.
“She knows some babies grow in tummies, but she grew in our hearts,” said Denise Sasiain.
They then started caring for Isabella’s half-sister, Daniella, and Xavier, who came to them with a brain injury, broken ribs and bite marks all over his body, Denise Sasiain said.
The average amount of time a child spends in foster care before they become available for adoption is about two years, which is the period of time the courts give to reunite the child with his or her biological family before making a decision on the child’s future. After a certain period of time, if the child is not able to return home, the parents’ rights are terminated, said Sonia Diaz, spokeswoman for Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, a nonprofit organization that provides havens for abused, neglected or abandoned children through adoption and foster care. Then, the children are available for adoption.
At Friday’s event, the youngest child adopted was 4 months old, while the oldest was 17.
Tim Stevens, a retired Marine Corps serviceman, and his wife, Kelly, adopted their fourth child with Down syndrome.
The Stevens have three grown children, but decided they wanted to adopt children with Down syndrome after they learned how to manage the condition with their 25-year-old son, Jeremiah.
Since then, the couple, who moved to South Florida about a year ago, adopted Shawnee, 18, Lyndsy, 17 and Keanu, 16. The newest member of the family, Marc, is 13.
“The biggest reward is giving a home to someone that might not otherwise have one,” said Tim Stevens.
National Adoption Day, now in its 15th year, is a national effort to raise awareness of the 100,000 children in foster care throughout the country who are awaiting permanent homes. The actual Day is Saturday.
There are about 4,100 children in foster care in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, Diaz said. The museum event, sponsored by The Children’s Trust, marks one of the largest adoption efforts in the country.
Each child received a teddy bear to take home. While families waited for their turn in one of the makeshift courtrooms, the children got their face painted and played in the museum.
In the supermarket station, Jonathan Borghi from Cutler Bay had play time with his son, Marcus, whom he had been fostering since he was 10 days old. It took Borghi a long time to adopt Marcus, who is turning 5 in December. First, he had to wait for the parents’ rights to be terminated and then go through the two-year legal adoption process.
“There’s a permanency behind it,” he said. “We could legally change his name — Marc — to Marcus: ‘Marc’ with ‘us’.”