Over 437,000 children and youth are in foster care in the U.S., according to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children (American SPCC). What’s more, it takes years for children to get adopted, and those who never find a permanent place to live get passed between group homes and families until they age out of the system.
Sara Cozad and her husband Stuart Shank are well aware of these problems, as they have fostered more than a dozen children over the past few years. While Cozad and Shank support “reunification,” the process of reuniting foster children with their families, that wasn’t possible for brothers Dayshawn and Michael. So Cozad and her husband decided to take them in permanently, adopting them in 2018.
But to make the experience more memorable and fun, Cozad and Shank decided to dress up and hire a limo for the occasion, driving to the courtroom in style.
Cozad told Good Morning America in 2018 that she was worried that Michael, who was 6 at the time, might act up while in the courtroom. Instead, however, Cozad and Shank left feeling emotional and elated by what Michael’s brother, Dayshawn, told the judge.
In a video from the courtroom, which has since gone viral with millions of views, we see the judge as she asks if Dayshawn is ready to commit to being adopted. And rather than simply saying “yes,” the then 13-year-old starts to tell the judge how much he loves his new family. During the emotional, uplifting speech, Cozad can’t keep from crying as her new son says how much he appreciates his parents.
Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video 🙂
“They all love us,” Dayshawn tells the judge in the video. “We love them. Our whole family is the best thing we ever had. I’m glad to have these people in my life. I’m glad to be their son. They’re the best thing I ever had. If I could wish for anything in the world, I would wish I could just love these people for the rest of my life.”
The judge then jokingly says, “If I had any doubt, it’s gone!”
Today, Cozad, who lives in San Diego, continues to update the world on her family via Instagram, where she has thousands of followers.
In an October 19 post from this year, Cozad posted a picture of a now grown-up 16-year-old Dayshawn and a 9-year-old Michael.
“Never a dull moment with these two, they make even the most ordinary day fun. I dare you to spend 5 minutes with them without cracking up,” Cozad captions the post.
In a 2018 interview with GMA, Cozad told the outlet that she brought up the idea of fostering children on her first date with her husband.
“I was impressed with how he rolled with it,” she said. “I never felt compelled to have biological children, and it just made sense if kids in our community need a place to stay and we have a house, that is what we would do.”
As of May 2019, Cozad and Shank have fostered 17 children, including Michael and Dayshawn. With most of those children, the couple work to reunify their foster kids with their families, which Cozad says is her favorite part of the entire process.
“People constantly ask me how I deal with a foster child who leaves our home to reunify, and I can say honestly that it’s my favorite part. If you are able to form a close bond and relationship with the parents of your foster children, then there doesn’t really need to be a goodbye,” Cozad writes in a 2019 column for The Archibald Project, which raises awareness surrounding adoption.
Cozad goes on to explain that she still texts and calls her foster kids and their parents daily, along with in-person outings like grabbing ice cream together.
“We walk hand-in-hand with them,” she told GMA. “When we go to court, I’m sitting next to their moms and supporting them. You get to play this small role in raising kids and being a support for a family when they need it.”
In her post for The Archibald Project, Cozad also writes that she and her husband are particularly focused on fostering LGBTQ+ youth and children who have gone through trauma.
To help these at-risk children adjust to their new homes, Cozad told GMA that they use Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), which is a “parenting style for parenting kids who have been through trauma.” Cozad added that it’s important to “attach with the child before they can heal.”
Cozad and her husband might sound like saints because of what they do, but she insists that it isn’t like that.
“Sometimes people say we are incredible people,” Cozad said. “That’s not true. It’s just showing up and trying to do your best. We meet incredible kids and families and it’s a great privilege to care for kids in our community.”
What do you think of Cozad and Shank’s choice to foster and adopt children? Let us know — and be sure to pass this video and story on to others.
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