It was a 'race to the finish' for Brad and Renee, who wanted to adopt Roman as early as possible before his 18th birthday.
The foster care system in America only supports an individual until they come of age and turn 18. Fortunately, a teenager named Roman found a forever home and loving family with Brad and Renee Balassaitis just a day before turning 18. According to local news, Brad and Renee, who hail from Clay County, Florida, adopted the young man and it was followed up by a moment of joy and celebration inside the Clay County Historic Courthouse as Roman Nehemiah officially became a Balassaitis.
“I was sweating badly. My heart was beating. I was very happy,” Roman told the outlet. “It means I have someone to go to. It means if I need someone to talk to, I have people to talk to now.” Roman is the seventh child Renee and Brad have adopted out of foster care and they also have their two biological children. The Balassaitis couple have fostered about 20 kids over the years. “Today was a race to the finish line for Roman a day before he turns 18. And once he turns 18, there's no adoption through the state as a minor. We'd have to go about it a whole different way,” Brad added.
“So now we know we have nine kids, officially,” he continued. “It's incredible. I mean, we're hours away from him turning 18. And we've started this process months and months ago, trying to make sure that you know that he wouldn't age out and become a statistic.” The father also talked to USA Today and revealed that they have "started to put the wheels in motion and it took a while with the adoption process."
The extensive adoption process started at the beginning of 2023. Roman previously stayed with the Balassaitis family for about nine months when he was 13 but wasn’t ready to be adopted. After reconnecting with the family once again, Roman realized that he had found his forever home. On the morning of Christmas 2022, Brad and Renee gave the teenager the ultimate preset by revealing that they were adopting him, per TODAY.
“Ever since adoption day, Roman has been walking lighter,” Renee added while speaking to the outlet. “It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off his shoulders and you can see it in the way he moves. He's incredibly relieved." “We were all sobbing,” Renee, 47, told the outlet. “All Roman has ever wanted was to find his forever family.” the adoption was finally made official at the courthouse which was located 40 miles outside of Jacksonville, Florida. “He’s going to do so well, he really is,” Renee told the First Coast News. “He needed to know people believed in him and that he was wanted, and chosen, that’s a big deal.”
According to the outlet, 60% of children in foster care mostly age out of the system and homelessness can become a harsh reality. "I think in the paperwork it showed he has been in 19 different places over the past several years. So, it has not been an easy life for him. We will have the opportunity to be a part of his life going forward and he doesn't have to worry about bouncing around anymore. He knows that we are here for him and he is grateful," Brad concluded.
According to the reports of Foster Focus, approximately 400,000 youth are currently in foster care in the United States. Around 20,000 of those youth age out each year without positive familial support or any family connection at all. Within 18 months of emancipation, 40-50% of foster youth become homeless. Additionally, 65% of youth leaving foster care need immediate housing upon discharge. We hope children like Roman can find their forever homes before aging out of the system as well.