Peter Mutabazi felt connected to his now-son Tony the moment he learned of his story. They had more in common than they initially thought.
Editor's note: We are re-sharing some of the best moments and most important stories of 2020. Although it was a difficult year for nearly all of us, there were also shining moments of light and signs of hope. This was one of them.
Dozens of children enter the foster care system every single year. While it is heartbreaking to see young children abandoned, it is even more so when the child is almost a teenager. At 11 years old, Tony Mutabazi was left at the hospital by his adoptive parents. They left him there and simply didn't come back. He soon entered the foster care system, where it was unsure if he would ever find a new family. Now, two years later, he's found his forever home with Peter Mutabazi in Charlotte, North Carolina, Good Morning America reports. Peter first fostered the teen before adopting him.
Though they are quite different from each other, Tony and Peter have got on like a house on fire. Tony first met his now-son when he fostered him. He was first placed in the foster system when he was only two years old. At the age of four, he was adopted for the first time. A few years later, he was abandoned again according to foster care worker Jessica Ward and his forever dad Peter. "He asked if his parents were coming to get him and they said no," his new father explained. "[We have] no idea why." On January 16, 2018, Peter got a call asking if he would take care of the young boy - then 11 years old - for the weekend. As a foster dad of three years, he obviously couldn't refuse.
Over the weekend, Peter learned about the young boy's story. He shared, "By that time, I was crying. I thought, 'Who would do that?' Once I knew the parents' rights were signed off and he had nowhere to go, I [knew] I had to take him." Ever since that weekend two years ago, the pair have been inseparable. Perhaps the reason behind their close friendship is the fact that Peter has a similar story. He grew up in Uganda, but ran away at the age of 10 because he was raised in an abusive household. Then, he found a parent figure who guided him through school. "They became my sponsor, my family. I grew up the poor of the poorest people on the planet," Peter said. "I grew up where no one told me to dream, that there was no future for me."
Eventually, Peter was able to move to the United States, where he became a citizen. He now works with the nonprofit organization World Vision United States, an initiative dedicated to helping children in vulnerable areas. Additionally, he has fostered a dozen children, making sure they're given the support they need to not just survive, but thrive. It was only after meeting Tony that Peter decided to become an adoptive father, not just a foster dad. He stated, "I had the room, the resources, so I had no reason to let him go. For what someone did for me I wanted to do something for someone else."
Tony was officially adopted in a Charlotte courthouse among Peter's family and friends. Foster care worker Ward helped facilitate Tony's adoption. She said, "[Tony] had some issues that he was dealing with from foster care and trauma when he was abandoned, so Peter [knew] once he took him in, that was it. Peter's [Mutabazi] story all around is beautiful and amazing. Because of the age Peter was when all of the things happened in his world, I feel like that's been such a connection for him and Tony." The duo enjoys watching movies, playing board games, reading books, and bicycling together. In the near future, they will welcome a new foster child into their family.