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Meeting Austin December 29, 2009

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.

“How did you find me?”

As you might expect, a serious look accompanied the serious question being asked of me by a 16-year-old boy I had only met a short time earlier. Austin and I were seated at a table with members of his foster family at a holiday mixer in Lexington, Ky. Perspective parents and children available for adoption were among the featured guests at the event. After about a half hour of predictable small talk, it took the teenager to add maturity to our conversation.

My first meeting with Austin during a holiday adoption mixer in Lexington, Kentucky

Happy to tackle the issue at hand, I decided to give Austin a little deeper background on my adoption journey. While it was something I had been considering for several years, it was last holiday season that I decided it was time to make my move. Children Awaiting Parents offered an information session at Rochester City Hall in January that I attended, and I learned about the 10-week certification class required of individuals pursuing adoption. So, during the spring, I committed one night a week to meet this obligation through sessions offered by Catholic Family Center. After completion of a “home study” in summer, I was ready to begin my search in earnest.

Austin was surprised to learn that I found him on the Internet. There are a variety of Web sites that offer photo listings of available children, and Adopt Us Kids provides the most comprehensive listing. You can find foster kids of any age, race and level of need from any state in the country. I tried to limit my search to the eastern U.S.

Sporting Austin's University of Kentucky cap

“I didn’t find you immediately,” I admitted to Austin. “I originally focused my search for kids between the ages of 10 and 14, but I found myself gravitating more toward the older kids. That’s when I adjusted my search to ages 12 to 16, and that’s when you popped up.”

I noticed that Austin had taken on a contemplative—almost distant—look, and it started to concern me. “Am I saying the right things?” I thought. An otherwise engaging and charismatic kid, I would come to recognize this occasionally solemn side as evidence of his many layers. Clearly he has experienced more than his share of disappointment in the past.

Austin and I would go on and talk about a wide range of things—from serious to silly. The success of that initial meeting on Saturday led to additional one-on-one time on Sunday, about 7 hours of just hanging out together. It was the perfect opportunity for the two of us to really get to know each other, and Austin was an open book. His honesty in describing his life’s ups and downs truly impressed me.

In perhaps my one bonehead move that day, I agreed to take him to a movie. I decided The Blind Side, featuring the life story of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, might be a good choice for my young football fan. I didn’t initially consider the storyline surrounding Oher’s eventual adoption by the Tuohy family. Sitting there in the theater, I kept thinking to myself, “Oh, my God, I’m Sandra Bullock!” Austin, of course, never gave it a second thought and just enjoyed the movie.

In the days that followed, after I had returned to Rochester, Austin would be forced to make some very mature decisions that would ultimately make his visit here for the holidays possible. Conflicting message about the risks and rewards of pursuing adoption nearly caused him to turn down the opportunity, but through the support of his wonderful caseworkers, he found the courage to take this leap of faith.

On Saturday, Jan. 2, at the conclusion of two solid weeks together, I will return Austin to Kentucky so that he can resume his schoolwork while awaiting permanent placement with me. We’re told that could take several weeks. Due to the nature of his visit, he and I have been hyper-connected, so it will be interesting for us to return to separate corners and really evaluate our time together—and consider what lies ahead.

“Do you think you’ll still want to come back?” I asked him over dinner last night. In full smart-ass mode, he replied, “Can I take the Play Station with me in case I don’t?” Of course, I declined, saying I would use it as leverage.

“Besides,” I said, “if you don’t come back, my family will kill me.”



1. Maureen - December 29, 2009


I keep getting drawn into the story of you and Austin and keep checking back for updates. It just warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes. You and Austin just seem so ‘meant to be’!

2. Cindee - December 29, 2009

Paul, It sounds like you’ve had one of your best holidays ever, courtesy of Austin! This was a great story and I’m sure you’ll have many more adventures to write about! Happy New Year!

3. Ron - December 31, 2009

Paul, I can not wait to meet him – you are a truly honest and caring person and I am sure Austin can’t wait to come back!

4. Happy anniversary, son! « Stellavision - December 12, 2010

[…] may have already read my reflection on what it was like that day, meeting Austin at a holiday mixer for perspective parents and children awaiting adoption. I’ll […]

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