A Place to Call Home: Adoption Day 2022

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 5:48 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2022 at 6:29 PM EST
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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - There are foster kids who wait a very long time to be adopted, but for several of these kids, the wait is over on Friday, Nov. 18.

That is “Adoption Day” in St. Joseph County.

21 adoptions will be finalized in court and WNDU has been invited to witness the proceedings. Among them, are 10-year-old Braelyn and 4-year-old Brooklyn; two sisters who are eager to call their foster parents “Mom and Dad.”

The sisters maybe six years apart, but they’re very close.

“I don’t really know how to explain this but it’s nice to have someone with you when you’re in the system,” said Braelyn.

The Indiana Foster System, where an estimated 1,500 kids like Braelyn and Brooklyn have a plan of adoption. That means they will be adopted by family members or their current foster parents. For these girls, it’s the Harringtons.

“They are Tressie and Mitch, the caretakers of me and Brookie,” said Braelyn who insists on calling the pair by their first names. Her sister doesn’t.

“She calls them mom and dad,” said Braelyn. “I’m waiting until it’s official.”

“The 18th it will be final,” said Tressie.

Tressie and Mitch Harrington have been married for 22 years. Together they have four kids.

“He had three when I met him and I had one,” said Tressie.

And now they have four grandchildren, some about the same age as the girls.

“They all get along. Best friends,” said the couple.

Tressie and Mitch decided to become foster parents years ago. It’s somewhat of a calling.

“That’s what keeps me going. People eat and drink. Well to me, it’s helping others…especially kids. Because they don’t have a choice,” said Tressie.

Tressie knows all too well what it’s like.

“In middle school, I got taken away and put in foster care. Many different ones. Went to a group home- that was my favorite. But you could only be there six months and then they moved you,” said Tressie.

Seven years ago, the couple got the call that they were needed for a short-term foster placement.

“Braelyn’s been here the longest – she started when she was three,” said Mitch.

After Braelyn’s biological parents reunited, Brooklyn was born and Tressie and Mitch were willing to help.

“When they went back they went home reunified, and I always said, keep an open door,” said Tressie.

Eventually both girls were placed back with the Harringtons and in time, Tressie and Mitch said yes to adoption.

“I think it’s going to be really, really good for these two kids,” said Kay Hallaert, CASA.

Hallaert is a CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate. She represents foster children in court.

“One of the things they teach you in training, you are the constant in these children’s lives,” said Hallaert.

She’s inspired by what she sees in this growing family.

“They have fabulous support with Tressie and Mitch and their family and their extended family. And you know the new saying now, you don’t have to be blood to be family. You don’t,” said Hallaert.

“They’re ready. We’re ready,” said Tressie.

Ready to be parents all over again.

“I didn’t think this would happen at 50 but it’s a good feeling,” said Tressie.

“I’m no spring chicken,” said Mitch. “She said 50, well, I’m pushing 60.”

“You know you get older and you’re thinking, ‘What the heck are you doing?’ You know? And then you look at them and you know, ’Yeah, I know what I’m doing,’” said Mitch. “They keep me younger.”

“They keep him going,” said Tressie. “Everybody needs somebody. Everybody.”

Braelyn and Brooklyn are thriving with all that support.

“It means a lot to me. And if that ever got taken away from me, I would be crushed,” said Braelyn.

So now, Braelyn is focused on the future, with parents, siblings, extended family, and pets.

With happy tears, Braelyn explained why it means so much.

“Because it will feel great to me to feel someone that can have my back like I have Brookie’s back,” said Braelyn.

She looks forward to the moment she can call her foster parents “Mom and Dad.”

The wait is almost over. Tressie and Mitch will adopt the girls on Friday in St. Joseph County. WNDU will be there.

If you would like to learn more about adoption from foster care click these links for Indiana Adoption Program and KidsPeace, the foster care agency used by the Harringtons:

Adopting from Foster Care | Indiana Adoption Program

KidsPeace - Making a Difference

If you would like to volunteer for CASA, click here:

CASA | St. Joseph County, IN (sjccasa.org)