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Florida Teen Who Spent Almost Half His Life In 19 Different Foster Homes Is Finally Adopted Before His 18th Birthday

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happy family with adopted daughter smiling at camera

A Florida teen received the news of a lifetime after finally finding his forever home right before aging out of the foster care system. Roman, the then-17-year-old, was close to having nowhere to go when Renee and Brad Balassaitis, a couple from Clay County, stepped in.

Roman was finally adopted after spending years in and out of different foster homes.

Roman, a teen from Jacksonville, Florida, had experienced his fair share of turbulence in his life after living in 19 different foster homes from the age of 11. After previously staying with Renee and Brad for nine months when he was 13 years old, the couple immediately wanted to welcome him into their family but were unable to adopt him at the time.

But after reconnecting with Renee and Brad in August 2022, it didn't take long for Roman to realize that he had found his forever home and family. 

"We started to put the wheels in motion and it took a while," Brad Balassaitis, who has adopted seven children with his wife, told USA Today. The couple, who have nine children, have been working since the beginning of the year to adopt Roman. 

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"It was kind of a race to the finish at the end but we really wanted to make sure it happened before his 18th birthday because we wanted to make sure he didn't age out of the system and then not have that same support," Brad continued.

In December 2022, Brad and Renee asked their other children how they felt about adopting Roman, who told their parents that they already considered the teenager their brother. The process of adopting a child is incredibly time-consuming as parents have to undergo training through a private or state agency, according to both Renee and Brad.

After getting the green light from their kids, Renee and Brad delivered the good news to Roman on Christmas morning that they would be adopting him. "We were all sobbing," Renee told TODAY. "All Roman has ever wanted was to find his forever family."

The family was able to make the adoption official over a Zoom call.

Just one day shy of his 18th birthday, Renee and Brad officially adopted Roman and the process was approved over a Zoom call and in the Clay County Historic Courthouse in October 2023. 

"I was sweating bad. My heart was beating. I was very happy," Roman said, per First Coast News. "It means I have someone to go to. It means if I need someone to talk to, I have people to talk to now."

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The Balassaitis family first started fostering children in 2008, and after their two biological children were old enough, they decided it would be nice to extend their family and give them siblings. "We started pursuing the training," Brad told USA Today. "We got licensed and got thrown right in the deep end."

According to data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, a recent report from 2021 found that an estimated 606,031 children passed through the U.S. foster care system over the course of one year.

Often, many of these children in the foster care system have experienced a turbulent life full of upheaval, and by adults choosing to adopt these children into their families, they are finally given a safe, stable, and loving environment, which is the case for Roman.

"He’s going to do so well, he really is," Renee said. "He needed to know people believed in him and that he was wanted, and chosen, that’s a big deal."

"Ever since adoption day, Roman has been walking lighter," she added while speaking with TODAY. "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."

Roman's story, and the Balassaitis family's remarkable act of love and commitment, have not only given the teen a place that he can call home for the rest of his life, but also a chance to finally have the loving embrace of a family that he's spent most of his life hoping for. 

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.