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Heroes of adoption

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By Optic Editorial Board

As November comes to a conclusion, so goes National Adoption Month, a time to highlight the need for children and youth in foster care to find permanent homes with loving adults. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are 107,000 young people in the U.S. waiting for such a home. A couple of weeks ago, however, there were six fewer kids in the system — thanks to the actions of a single man, an attorney in Farmington.

On Nov. 18, Richard Austin stood before a district judge and legally took on six siblings, ranging from age 1 to 16, some of whom had been in the foster care system for the past three years. Austin, whose law practice primarily deals with children, had encountered the children through his work. After seeing how happy they were together, he decided they shouldn’t be split up. “This way they get to stay together and be near their biological family,” he told the Farmington Daily Times.

He adopted them all, with blessings from their mother and grandmother.

“I love my children, but this is in their best interest,” said their biological mother at the adoption proceedings. “It’s very hard for me, but I am grateful that they can all stay together.” Then she turned to Austin and, with tears in her eyes, thanked him.

Previously, the children had been with their grandmother — a common occurrence in many families — but she too was supportive of the adoption. She praised Austin as a stable person who can give the kids a stable environment in which to grow up.

For his part, Austin didn’t seem to make a big  deal of it. In fact, he called it “a lot of fun seeing how they adapt to a new home and change.” A single man who adopted a son 12 years ago, Austin is now planning to buy a bigger house for his dramatically larger family.

“He’s a good dad and one of the greatest people I’ve met in my life,” his son Michael, now 19, said.

Austin explained his parenting style this way: “A lot of kids in foster care don’t have a lot of self-esteem,” he said. “They have been going from place to place so much that they often don’t feel wanted. ... I don’t use negative reinforcement. I try to use a lot of positive encouragement, and really praise them when they get things right.”

Here we have an obvious hero — a man big enough to shoulder an incredible responsibility and keep a family of siblings together — but he’s not the only one. Thousands of adoptions take place every year in the U.S., and those who step up to the task are heroes all. We just need more of them.