The Vanstrates — who also have a 19-year-old son, Zachery — told their adoption story Tuesday morning in the crowded Circuit Court room at the Ottawa County Fillmore Street Complex, as 12 children were adopted into 10 families as part of Michigan’s annual Adoption Day.
“Austin is a great kid,” Amy said. “He adjusted very quickly to our family and at school.”
Amy held up a picture of Austin, who did not attend Tuesday’s adoption proceedings because he did not want to miss out on a school event, his mother said.
During the adoption process for Austin, the Vanstrates learned of his half brother, who was put into foster care shortly after Austin’s adoption.
Trever has Jarcho-Leven syndrome — a rare genetic disorder that effects bone formation, ribs and respiratory system, along with other abnormalities — and requires a lot of medical attention. At the time, the Vanstrates did not feel they would know how to care for a “medically fragile child,” Amy said.
Trever was then placed in a home and the Vanstrates organized various get-togethers for Trever and Austin. However, after spending one weekend with the two brothers, the Vanstrates said they felt a lasting impression the brothers had made on their lives.
“We had a great time,” Amy said. “And by Sunday, I did not want to give him back.”
The next morning, Amy and Matt said they knew what they had to do.
“I knew it would be difficult and there might be big changes in our life,” Matt said. “So my wife made the call.”
Trever was officially adopted on June 24, 2010 — exactly one year after Austin.
“Being adopted is the best thing that happened to me,” a spirited Trever said in the courtroom on Tuesday. “The family I live with is awesome. I am glad that I live with my brother, Austin; and my big brother, Zachery. I love my family.”
“Both of the boys have made great progress,” Amy said. “My husband and I are very blessed and glad we made the decision to adopt. We have three great boys: Zachery, Austin and Trever.”
Ottawa County Probate Judge Mark Feyen and Circuit Judge Kent Engle each confirmed six adoptions into five families on Tuesday, the seventh annual Ottawa County Adoption Day.
“Adoption is a wonderful thing because it provides permanency,” Feyen said prior to the confirmations. “... With adoption, a child is born into a difficult circumstance. And you can’t change that, but you can give them a better direction in life. It’s very rewarding work.”
There were about 3,800 children in Michigan last year who were in need of families, according to Feyen. About 2,700 children in the foster care system were placed with adopting families in 2010.
“Adoption is an embodiment of our society,” Engle said. “It’s a joyful occasion and this is what our country should be all about.”
One Grand Haven family was one of those who officially became a “forever family” to a 9-year-old boy who they had known since the beginning of their foster care days. In January 2008, Jessica and David Tysman were awakened late at night to find Nathan and an officer at their doorstep. Nathan ended up living with the couple for six weeks before his biological mother requested that he live with his “next of kin,” Jessica said.
For the next two years, Nathan bounced between several foster care homes and then back again with his mother. In March, Nathan moved in with permanently with the Tysmans.
“We were a foster family — and from the time he showed up at our house at 2 in the morning, we’ve had a connection,” David said of Nathan.
Nathan officially became a member of the Tysman family on Tuesday, joining his “new” younger Tysman sisters: Maggie, 6; and Amelia, 3.
“It’s my ‘forever family’ and I don’t have to keep on moving,” Nathan said after the proceedings.
Nathan’s adoption wasn’t just a family affair. His friends and classmates at Grand Haven Christian School came to the ceremony for support.
“We’re a big part of his life and support him in his adoption,” said Nathan’s third-grade teacher, Jessica VanDounen. “It’s so neat to see a child who had no family become part of a ‘forever family.’ It brings tears to my eyes watching the joy of that experience and watch it be finalized in court.”
Eleven of Nathan’s peers watched from the back of the courtroom as Feyen signed the official adoption certificate, and as Nathan and his siblings hammered the judge’s gavel to make the adoption final. Afterward, they gathered for refreshments and each decorated a page — many writing “Happy Adoption Day” — for Nathan that will be put together in a book for him, VanDounen said.
To see photos from the Ottawa County Adoption Day, click here.