Goliad foster family becomes a 'forever' family
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For more information on the adoption process, log onto www.dfps.state.tx.us.
GOLIAD - Christopher Perez rehearsed his lines a 1,000 times, until he had them nearly memorized.
The zealous 8-year-old Goliad boy wanted his speech, which he volunteered to write and present, to be perfect when he read it in front of an audience during what was sure to be one of the most important days of his and his three younger brothers' lives - the day their adoptions became finalized.
"Everybody, I'd like to be adopted because I can be a good child and we have a good mommy, and a good dad, and a good sister and me and my brothers" said Perez, as he read through the speech he had carried around in his pocket for a week prior so not to misplace it or leave it behind on the big day. "And P.S., I love them so much."
Perez and his brothers were four of 36 children, ranging in age from 1 to 16, whose adoptions were finalized during a mass adoption ceremony in San Antonio on March 25 at the Bexar County Courthouse.
"Even though they are young, we can tell that they appreciate us," said Maria Perez, the boys' adoptive mother. "With proper care, we hope to bring them up to speed."
"These are children who are being raised by the system and that is certainly something we don't want," said Mary Walker, spokeswoman for Child Protective Services. "These are children who deserve and need to have forever families."
Christopher, along with his brothers, Nazarath, 5; Ezra, 3; and Abraham, 2; were formally adopted by Maria, 57, and her husband, Alfred Perez.
Maria, a housewife, and Alfred, a 53-year-old maintenance worker for the Texas Department of Transportation, met the boys while serving as foster parents.
The boys came into the couple's life about a year after they decided to become foster parents.
In November 2008, the couple received word that the four young boys needed a foster home.
Born to a drug-addicted mother, the boys, all of whom have different absentee fathers, were homeless, living in shelters and under bridges in San Antonio.
The Perezes hoped to take all four boys into their home.
But, because the state mandates that foster children need 30 square-feet per child in their bedroom, the Perezes were only able to take in two of the boys at the time - Christopher and Abraham.
Determined not to let the boys be separated after all they had been through, the parents gave up their master bedroom, which could fit four beds, for the boys and moved into one of their smaller bedrooms.
Nazarath and Ezra joined their brothers in the Perez home in January 2009.
"As soon as we got them, they won our hearts," said Maria. "Before they got here, our home was kind of quiet. They made us young again."
Adjusting to life in the Perez home was not without its bumps, especially for Christopher.
"The oldest one was always telling me to take them back to their mom and that I knew where their mom lived," said their adoptive mother, who said the boys went through the typical stages of grief and loss. "When one of the babies was crying, he'd run and make the bottles. I had to set him straight that I was the mommy now."
While all of the boys were severely underdeveloped, Ezra also suffered from autism and Nazarath had ear and eye problems as well as rotted teeth.
Despite the adversities they faced, the boys did eventually begin to flourish in their new home.
In addition to enrolling the older boys in school, the boys gained an interest in painting and Christopher got involved in church.
Although Child Protective Services' original plan was to reunite the children with their mother, in late 2010, it became clear that was not going to happen.
The boys' birth mother's parental rights were terminated in December, leaving the boys officially up for adoption.
The Perezes immediately jumped at the opportunity to legally adopt Christopher and his brothers.
"We didn't want them to go," said Maria, as she described how much she and her husband, as well as their other family members, had bonded with the children. "We wanted the boys."
Maria said that none of the boys' birth mother's 19 siblings wanted them, reinforcing her worries that if the boys left their home, they would be split up.
"They had already lost so much - aunts, uncles, grandparents," said Maria. "They couldn't go through another loss."
The Perezes began the adoption proceedings in December.
The adoption ceremony brought a sense of closure to the Perez family.
"Your parents keep you at home safe, and give you something to drink and give you toys, friends and school. All kinds of stuff," said Christopher, whose only worry these days is when he will get some hermit crabs to fill his empty aquarium.
"They're interesting," said 17-year-old Krystal Perez, Maria's biological granddaughter who also lives with the Perezes and is like a sister to the boys. "They were like complete strangers. Now, I can't see a day without them."
Meanwhile, Maria continues to advocate for adoption.
"People say 'I wish I could adopt, but I don't have a big house,'" she said. "You don't need a big house. All you need is a big heart."