By Isaiah Seibert, Evansville Courier & Press
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A familiar face stood on the front steps to Richard Colacecchi’s house three years ago.
“When he showed up and I opened the door, his eyes got bigger than his glasses because he remembered,” Richard said. “He didn’t know how he remembered, but he remembered.”
Richard, a newly approved foster parent, had just received his first placement.
The boy’s name was Johnathin, or J.T., but Richard already knew that.
Six years before, they attended the same church. Richard’s mother even taught J.T., only 3 or 4 years old then, in Sunday school.
He wasn’t planning to see that same boy standing in front of him, but, “I knew once I saw Johnathin that I was doing God’s work,” Richard said.
Their foster family grew steadily. J.T., now 13, was joined by his brothers, 8-year Zander and 6-year-old Eli. Richard also fostered a fourth boy, a 14-year-old named Daniel.
They’re not a foster family anymore, though. The boys officially became Colacecchi’s when Vanderburgh Superior Court Magistrate Renee Ferguson approved Richard’s petition to adopt them Thursday morning.
Richard never planned to end up in that courtroom when he became a foster father several years ago.
“I didn’t go into fostering to adopt. I went into fostering just to step into the role of my calling, what I feel like I was called to do,” he said.
Since then, he’s provided a home for many kids. He currently has a foster child in addition to the four children he just officially adopted.
“As I got further along in this process with these children, these children grabbed my heart,” he said. “When they brought these children to me, and I knew these children from back then…I knew that I stepped into my calling.”
As the family grew closer, the dominoes started falling. First, the biological parents lost visitation rights. Then, the Department of Child Services petitioned the court for a termination of parental rights, or TPR.
Richard knew he had to do something.
“What kind of heart would I have had if I had these children, gave them the stabilities that they’ve had all this time,” he said, “to…just tell (Child Services), ‘Hey, you guys can go get these kids at this point?'”
So when he realized the kids could be adopted, he lawyered up.
“The whole process was scary to me… You never know when they file TPR if it’s going to go all the way through (or) if they were going to find something to take these children back and put them back into their biological homes,” he said. “I didn’t know. I just held on. I held on.”
He held on all the way to Nov. 21, when the court finalized the adoption.
The four boys were among the 12 scheduled to be adopted Thursday during Vanderburgh County’s celebration of National Adoption Day.
Almost every county in the state marks the occasion. The goal isn’t only to celebrate that day’s adoptions it’s also to encourage new ones, said Rachel Schuble, an adoption champion with the Indiana Adoption Program.
She said there are several hundred children needing a permanent home at any given time in Indiana.
“A lot of our kiddos have been waiting for years to be adopted,” Schuble said. “It’s important to celebrate that milestone.”
When it came time for their hearing, the boys, all sporting new sneakers and a plaid shirt like their father’s, sat in a row in front of the judge.
Richard was asked a series of questions from his lawyer, Tim Hubert, about himself and his ability to be a dad.
A question about whether Richard had the energy to handle four boys elicited chuckles from the crowd of friends and family behind them.
“Do you like them?” Hubert jokingly asked to even more laughter.
“I love them,” Richard responded resolutely.
The lawyer then asked each boy if he agreed to the adoption and had them recite their new names, since they took on Richard’s last name.
And so it became official. The judge granted Richard’s adoption petitions, and the boys celebrated by banging her gavel.
Getting to that point wasn’t easy, Richard said.
“Anytime a child is pulled away from their biological family, it causes some sort of trauma,” Richard said. He calls himself “a fixture on a wall” at their therapists’ office.
To counter that, he’s had to show the boys unconditional love and support.
“I had to — I don’t know if this is the right word I’m using — prove myself,” he said.
“(J.T.) didn’t know what he was getting into when he came to me. Yes, he knew of me because of the church experience,” he said. “But… I showed him that this old boy cares, this old boy’s going to do everything.”
That took time, but Richard also had another task at hand — blending two families. The boys were a little uncertain around each other at first, he said.
But he’s worked hard to nurture shared interests and focus on bonding as a family. They have regular outings to local restaurants, go camping together and spend a lot of time outdoors.
But the glue holding them together, according to Richard, is love.
“Has it been the easiest struggle? No, I can’t say it has,” he said. “But it’s been the best and the most rewarding.”
Source: Evansville Courier & Press
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