ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Indiana (WNDU) – There are foster children who have a very long wait to be adopted, but for some of these children the wait will end on Friday, November 18th.
This is “Adoption Day” in St. Joseph County.
21 adoptions will be finalized in court and WNDU has been invited to witness the proceedings. Among them are 10-year-old Braelyn and 4-year-old Brooklyn; two sisters who absolutely want to call their foster parents “mom and dad”.
The sisters may be six years apart, but they’re very close.
“I don’t really know how to explain this, but it’s nice to have someone with you when you’re in the system,” Braelyn said.
The Indiana Foster System, where an estimated 1,500 children like Braelyn and Brooklyn have an adoption plan. That is, they are adopted by family members or their current foster parents. For these girls, it’s the Harringtons.
“They are Tressie and Mitch, who are caretakers for me and Brookie,” said Braelyn, who insists on calling the couple by their first names. not your sister.
“She calls them Mom and Dad,” Braelyn said. “I’ll wait until it’s official.”
“It will be final on the 18th,” Tressie said.
Tressie and Mitch Harrington have been married for 22 years. Together they have four children.
“He had three when I met him and I had one,” Tressie said.
And now they have four grandchildren, some around the same age as the girls.
“They all understand each other. Best friends,” the couple said.
Tressie and Mitch decided years ago to become foster parents. It’s like a calling.
“That’s what drives me. People eat and drink. Well, for me it helps others…especially children. Because they don’t have a choice,” Tressie said.
Tressie knows what it’s like all too well.
“In middle school, I was taken away and placed with a foster family. Many different. Went to a group home – this was my favorite. But you could only be there for six months and then they moved you,” Tressie said.
Seven years ago, the couple received a call that they were needed for a short-term foster job.
“Braelyn has been here the longest — she started when she was three,” Mitch said.
After Braelyn’s birth parents were reunited, Brooklyn was born and Tressie and Mitch were ready to help.
“When they came back, they went home together again, and I always said keep the door open,” Tressie said.
Eventually both girls were placed back with the Harringtons and in time Tressie and Mitch said yes to adoption.
“I think it’s going to be really, really good for these two kids,” said Kay Hallaert, CASA.
Hallaert is a CASA or Court Appointed Special Counsel. She represents foster children in court.
“One of the things they teach you in training, you’re the constant in these kids’ lives,” Hallaert said.
She is inspired by what she sees in this growing family.
“You have fabulous support from Tressie and Mitch and their family and extended family. And you now know the new saying, you don’t have to be related by blood to be family. You don’t,” Hallaert said.
“You are ready. We’re ready,” Tressie said.
Ready to be parents again.
“I didn’t think that would happen at 50, but it’s a good feeling,” Tressie said.
“I’m not a spring chicken,” Mitch said. “She said 50, well I’ll hit 60.”
“You know you’re getting older and you’re like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ You know? And then you look at her and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I know what I’m doing,'” Mitch said. “They keep me younger.”
“They keep him going,” Tressie said. “Everyone needs someone. Everyone.”
Braelyn and Brooklyn are thriving with all that support.
“It means a lot to me. And if that was ever taken away from me, I would be devastated,” Braelyn said.
So now Braelyn is focused on the future with parents, siblings, extended family and pets.
Through tears of joy, Braelyn explained why it means so much.
“Because it’s going to feel great for me to feel someone who can have my back like I have Brookie’s back,” Braelyn said.
She is looking forward to the moment when she can call her foster parents “Mom and Dad”.
The wait is almost over. Tressie and Mitch will adopt the girls Friday in St. Joseph County. WNDU will be there.
If you would like to learn more about foster family adoption, click on these links for the Indiana Adoption Program and KidsPeace, the Harringtons’ foster care agency:
Adoption from foster family | Indiana Adoption Program
KidsPeace – Making a difference
If you would like to volunteer for CASA, click here:
CASA | St. Joseph County, IN (sjccasa.org)
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