While they may not seem like such a big deal to some of us, so many less fortunate children are forced to grow up thinking that families are a luxury. For these youngsters, the dream of growing up around loving parents seems like a far cry from their daily lives.
In some cases, adoption turns this around. Thousands of parents make it their priority to love these children and give them a home. For others though, you never know what truly goes on behind closed doors. One courageous boy spoke out during his adoption hearing and changed his foster parents’ fate forever.
The Long Ordeal
So, how does it work? If some of you assumed it was as easy as picking out a child and adopting them then and there, you’d be greatly mistaken. Parents must first go through a period of fostering a child, before taking the matter to court and letting a judge decide whether they are fit enough to make things official.
Adopting children is not an easy process, and having to attend court in order to hear your fate can be a nervewracking time for any prospective parents. Joining the crew of nailbiters were Sara Cozad and Stuart Shank, a young couple who hoped the judge would allow them to expand their family.
How It All Happened
So, it all went down on August 13th, 2018. Sara and Stuart sat in a courtroom where so many foster parents had come in and out of before them. They were eagerly waiting to find out whether they could adopt the two boys they so wanted to officially adopt.
Out of nowhere, the older child, Dayshawn, did something no one could have prepared for. In the middle of the grand courtroom, he stood up and got a few things off his chest about Sara and Stuart. What he said left his foster parents in tears.
Meet the Parents
So, let’s rewind back to where this story begins. Sara Cozad may have been young, but she never allowed this minor detail to distract her from what she wanted in life, to adopt children. It was crucial for her that if she met a guy, he had to be on board with her plans.
Adopting was such a dream of Sara’s that she did whatever it took to make it a reality. As soon as she met the love of her life, Stuart, she began discussing with him the ins and outs of the adoption process. Some may say this is a pretty serious topic to speak about on a first date, but Stuart was all ears.
Joining the Dream
Stuart could not have reacted in a better way to Sara’s big news. Even Sara admitted to being “impressed with how [Shank] rolled with it.” It takes a special sort of person to commit to something so huge on a first date, and Sara was ever-so-grateful for meeting him.
Straight after agreeing to Sara’s decision, Stuart couldn’t help but fantasize about the prospect of being a dad. It was all very exciting! He may not have considered it too deeply before, but Sara had allowed this man to consider something that would change his life forever, for the better.
Falling in Love
There was one thing Sara knew after meeting Stuart: she was not letting someone like that go! It seemed she had finally found the missing piece to her child-adopting puzzle; and she couldn’t believe her luck.
Here’s the adorable part: Stuart and Sara fell in love, and made things official in 2014 by tieing the knot. Almost immediately after the wedding and honeymoon, the couple returned back home with one important goal: starting their journey towards becoming foster parents! We can almost feel their excitement.
Finally, the day had arrived for Sara to start making her adoption dream a reality, with the man she now couldn’t picture life without. Upon looking into different foster organizations, Sara kept one specific demand close in her mind.
Sara was pretty young, 23-years-old to be precise. What did this mean? She thought her experience and expertise would be best suited to a younger child. Even when she envisioned the moment she and Stuart adopted, a younger child always seemed to feature in the dream.
The Journey Began
The couple quickly began to fast track their way to becoming a family, Sara couldn’t believe her luck. Over the years, Sara and Stuart opened their doors to more and more children. It was official: they had become foster parents!
With each child the happy couple took in, the pair began to notice a trend. The children were all very young, never expanding beyond the toddler stage. This was because, much to Sara’s relief, the social worker also believed the young couple was a better fit to take care of younger children.
The First Trial
Let’s get straight into it. Upon realizing they were now fully-fledged foster parents, Sara and Stuart were summoned for their first duty. They were asked to look after Michael, an adorable three-year-old for the weekend. What a fun filled few days they had planned!
When we said fun-filled, we really meant it. The couple enjoyed looking after Michael so much, they jumped at the chance of allowing him to extend his stay with them. The days flew by so quickly, the pair barely even noticed little Michael had already stayed with them a week.
Can’t Let Go
On the surface, Sara and Stuart felt relief after the first week. They were relieved to understand they were 100% doing the right thing, parenting seemed to come naturally to both of them. All the planning was totally worth it. On a slightly deeper level, the couple felt overcome by love.
Meeting Michael for the first time, the couple had no idea just how much the young child would have an impact over them. He fit perfectly into that family, and they couldn’t bear to let him go. The week together turned into months, and months turned into years.
Sara, Stuart, and Michael couldn’t be happier together. Spending all those years together had almost turned this trio into a real family – it certainly felt like one! It was on one of their many days out together that everything changed, as the almost-family were met by one very special visitor.
Sara and Stuart couldn’t believe their luck. Who was the secret visitor? Approaching the happy trio was none other than Dayshawn, Michael’s older brother. The foster parents were overcome by emotions as they watched the two brothers reunite. It was like something out of a movie!
A Huge Realization
Watching the two estranged brothers meet, a million thoughts entered Sara’s mind. Underneath the initial joy that it brought her to see the two brothers embrace, a slightly more pressing matter suddenly came around for the emotional foster mother.
As adorable as it was to see Michael and Dayshawn together, there was one thing Sara couldn’t allow: for these brothers to be separated ever again. They were so happy to be reunited, she couldn’t bear the thought of their happiness being taken away from them.
Making a Decision
Over the next couple of weeks, Sara and Stuart put their thinking caps on, as they began planning how they would keep this brotherly bond strong. They wanted Michael and Dayshawn to be together, so considered, and eventually came round to one huge decision.
It was settled. The happy couple was going to welcome Dayshawn into their foster family. The trio was going to become a quartet! It seemed like the fairest option on Michael, so it was an easy decision. Only one slight hurdle seemed to come to Sara and Stuart’s way when making this choice.
A Pressing Matter
Sara and Stuart welcomed Dayshawn to the family with open arms. It was an exciting time for everyone involved – they got to care for another child, and little Michael got a brother to play with! So, what was the problem? The new brother was a little older than the couple anticipated.
As we mentioned, Sara and Stuart had been vocal about what they wanted. Being a young couple, they felt more comfortable with a younger child. Dayshawn, on the other hand, was ten-years-old. As happy as these two were, it of course, rose a little concern.
Love Conquers All
All of Stuart and Sara’s reservations about taking on an older child lasted around five minutes. Why? The satisfying thought of making their family bond even stronger defied all their worries. They immediately knew they were making the right decision.
So, that was it! The decision was made. Sara had to mentally prepare herself for the fact that she would be fostering a child just thirteen years younger than her, but she knew she could do it. If it made Michael happy, it made her even happier. It’s all about keeping a positive mental attitude.
Talking Through It
Sometimes, all you need to do is talk it out. It may have been a shaky start, but Sara and Stuart were determined to take this next step, for Michael. Upon having a conversation with Dayshawn, Sara knew he would be the perfect addition to their family.
It was as if fate had done its job and put all of Sara’s nerves to rest. Just a few words from Dayshawn had confirmed for his new foster mother that he would fit right into their happy family. She began to think, why was I worried in the first place?
A New Hobby
Over the course of their journey as foster parents, Sara and Stuart took care of a multitude of children in need – fourteen to be precise! A lot of children were even being looked after while Michael and Dayshawn were living with them.
That’s a lot of kids! While some adults may struggle to keep control of so many little ones, Sara and Stuart had such a positive attitude about what they were doing that it never caused any stress. They set out to improve the lives of these children, and they wouldn’t let anything get in the way of that.
The Next Step
So, Sara and Stuart had taken in Dayshawn. Their next decision came to their minds almost instantly. In order to keep these boys happy, they needed to be living in a safe and secure home – forever. It was up to them to make this plan happen.
How this couple’s plan had changed! They initially didn’t even consider fostering an older child, and now, here they were, hoping to make it full time. Sara and Stuart quickly began investigating how they could adopt the two brothers. By this point, they were in it for the long haul!
How They Did It
Let the adoption process begin! By this time, Sara and Stuart were well aware of the ins and outs of the adoption process. They knew it wouldn’t be as easy a ride as they would like, but they were willing to put in some serious work for these boys. In their minds, they were already a family.
Legal action of the boys meant one thing: going to court. The couple took it upon themselves to prepare for what would be the most important event of their lives. They were hopeful the judge would recognize what spectacular parents they made, but they also braced themselves for the worst.
As we mentioned before, Sara and Stuart familiarized themselves with the adoption process. Having said this, nothing could have prepared these hopeful parents for the ordeal they were about to face. How long did they have to wait for a court case? Six whole months.
Can you imagine that? Six months of waiting to hear the decision of your fate. Stuart, Sara, Michael and Dayshawn were practically sat on the edge of their seats waiting. In her blog “Love What Matters” Sara noted that “the process went on for years” – we’re sure it felt that way!
The Upside to It All
Despite the grueling wait this hopeful family had to go through, they still managed to focus on the positives. Sure, it was a time of anxious anticipation, but that didn’t mean they had to stop enjoying their time together, quite the opposite!
Now, isn’t that adorable! During their wait, the quartet were found enjoying some quality time together, making the bond they shared even stronger. We suspect this was fueled by Sara and Stuart’s attempts to keep a positive mind about everything.
Let’s talk more about this blog. Via the world wide web, Sara shared with others her route to adoption, as a way of dealing with the circumstances, and expressing her emotions. During their wait to hear about a court case, the prospectice mother made some interesting conclusions.
Who knew that so many good things could come out of waiting? In the “Love What Matters” blog, Sara noted that this process acted as a huge learning curve for her and Stuart. It allowed them to reflect on their time with the boys, appreciating every second they got to spend with them.
The Big Day
August 13th, 2018. After what seemed like a lifetime, the day had arrived! Sara and Stuart were going to find out if they could become the official parents of brothers, Michael and Dayshawn. All of their waiting and anticipating boiled down to this very moment. It was an intense day for all.
Two bangs of the gavel later, and the husband and wife witnessed their biggest dream turn into a reality, as the judge declared that not only would Michael and Dayshawn stay together, but Sara and Stuart were going to become parents! Miracles really do happen.
An Emotional Time
Hallelujah! Many people knew how hard this couple worked to have a family. It is because of this, that the judge’s outcome caused so many people in the courtroom to well up at the results. It wasn’t easy, but in one day all this couple’s efforts had paid off.
It may not come as a surprise to learn, that Sara was one of the most emotional people in the courtroom that day. What is surprising though, is the real reason why the young mother’s tears began pouring down. It all started with Dayshawn standing up to share a few words.
An Unexpected Moment
Let’s rewind a little, back to the middle of the court case and just before a decision was made. As a protocol, the judge asked the question “You think they all agree that this adoption ought to go forward?” We know this, because a recording was taken from this exact moment.
Typically with these questions, the room stays quiet and doesn’t respond. A young and brave Dayshawn did the unexpected, though. The older brother sat upright and shared with the entire courtroom some thoughts he had on his new parents. Everyone was in shock.
Defying All Odds
Well, this is a first! The courtroom quickly switched their attention to older brother Dayshawn, as he sat facing the judge with a few things on his mind. “Yeah, they all love us” were the next words which came out of the young boy’s mouth.
It may have been a little out of the ordinary, but the young Dayshawn had successfully put a smile on everyone’s face present at the case. The ten-year-old lightened the mood of the whole courtroom, as the spectators shared a few laughs at his sweet comment.
It Didn’t End There
Sure, the comment made by Dayshawn lifted the mood of the courtroom. What happened next though, made things a whole lot more emotional, and the laughs turned to tears. The ten-year-old continued to say a few things about his future parents, that pulled on everyone’s heartstrings.
In the most heartwarming way, Dayshawn admitted that “If I could wish for anything in the world, I would wish I could just love these people for the rest of my life.” It was at that moment, Sara simply couldn’t contain her emotions any longer. The happy tears began pouring out!
Family members traveled near and far to watch this event play out, but we’re sure not many of them were expecting to ball their eyes out! They were such short, simple words from Dayshawn, but they bore so much sentimentality to how hard his parents had worked hard for a family.
So, that was it! The Shanks had officially become a family-of-four, and everyone was thrilled about it. Keen to keep the celebrations going, the new parents threw a party with the family members present in the courtroom. Just about everyone was eager to congratulate the ecstatic couple.
The Naming Game
Sure, this party was filled with well-wishes and a few happy tears here and there. What did the boys enjoy most about it, though? The chance to finally get their names changed. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing to you Dayshawn and Michael Shank. It sounds as if it was meant to be!
It may just be a surname change to you and me, but to the two young boys, it was so much more than that. Becoming a Shank guaranteed them a lifetime of love, care and a place to call home. Out of any two people in the world, they couldn’t wish for better parents than Sara and Stuart.
Dayshawn’s Big Decision
This was an exciting day! Not only was the older brother, Dayshawn, given a family, but he got the opportunity to select his very own middle name. Being the sentimental boy we now know he is, the ten-year-old wanted to make it a special one.
Here it is: Dayshawn Star Shank. The name “Star” surely is a unique one, but his mother Sara couldn’t help but feel like it fit him perfectly. She describes him now as a boy that “defies every stereotype of a teenage boy.” Given everything we know about teenagers, this is one heck of a compliment!
A Bright Future
As if by magic, the Shank family received everything they wanted. Sara and Stuart’s dream of welcoming their home to these boys came true. Dayshawn and Michael’s prayers to be taken out of the foster home, and into a permanent, more loving one had been answered too.
Ever since this day, Sara and Stuart’s life has picked up dramatically. Every day they are rewarded for their efforts to gain a family through the endless love and gratitude their new sons provide them with. It’s safe to say, Michael and Dayshawn made all the hard work worth it.
Opening Their Arms Again
Sara and Stuart looked after a wide number of children over the years, but Michael and Dayshawn were the lucky ones, getting the opportunity to become their sons. Having said this, starting a family certainly did not mean this couple would stop looking after kids in need.
Who said the journey had to end here? Over the years, Sara and Stuart continued welcoming foster children into their home. Having their two sons actually worked in the benefit this time around, giving the foster children someone to play with.
The Newest Member
Sara and Stuart welcomed a number of foster kids into their home after adopting. Possibly one of the most memorable of the lot was a fourteen-year-old they welcomed just one month after Dayshawn and Michael became their sons.
What made this child stand out from the rest? Not only had they been separated from their parents, but they had been the victim of illegal exploitation. The new parents couldn’t bear to think what this child must have gone through, so they made it their top duty to care for them.
Parents in Training
From a very young age, Sara Cozad discovered her main purpose in life. What was that? To take care of underprivileged children who had grown up out of a stable home. After meeting her spouse, Stuart, she taught him the value of improving children’s lives, too.
The thoughtful couple took on their largest challenge yet in September. Together, they underwent the relevant training to look after the fourteen-year-old with such a complex background. This may have been stressful for some new parents, but for these two, it was simply what needed to be done.
Wanting to Help
We can’t get over this couple! Proving their hearts stretch out to just about everyone, Stuart and Sara paid close attention during their training, and can now be found using it to the best of their abilities, in order to help even the most challenging of foster children.
Sara puts it simply in her blog: “It’s heartbreaking that these demographics of teens sit in social workers’ offices or shelters for weeks (or even months) on end since so few homes are open to them.” It is because of this fact that the couple goes above and beyond to accommodate the kids – how sweet!
It Was All Worth It
If you were looking for any inspiration to adopt, or simply wanted to discover a real-life fairytale, then you’ve 100% found it in this story. Not only are Sara and Stuart commended today for their endless love they are providing less fortunate children with, but their can-do attitude.
When you work hard for something, you’ll reap the benefits. That certainly can be applied to these caring individuals. Today, the Shank couple enjoy every day with their adopted sons, and the many fostered children they take in regularly.