Growing up in the foster care system is difficult. The day a child is adopted out of that system is an incredibly joyous occasion.
Now imagine what it must be like to be in foster care, get adopted and spend seven years with a family, only to one day have them abandon you. This is, unfortunately, is the story of 13-year-old Tony Mutabazi. The ending, however, is as heartwarming as the beginning is heart-wrenching thanks to his new father Peter. (1)
A Second Abandonment.
Tony Mutabazi has been in the foster care system since he was two years old. With no information on his birth parents, he moved through the foster system, hoping to one day be adopted.
He was finally adopted when he was four by a couple from Oklahoma. One day, after living with that family for seven years, his family dropped him off at a hospital and drove away. They said they would not be coming back and did not explain why. Tony was only 11 years old.
The weekend that changed everything.
On January 16, 2018, Peter Mutabazi received a phone call from Tony’s foster care worker, Jessica Ward. Peter had been a foster parent for three years.
Originally, Jessica called Peter asking if he could just take Tony for the weekend. When Peter heard Tony’s full story though, he knew he couldn’t just let the poor boy be at the mercy of the system again. He understood that the older a child gets, the harder it is to be adopted.
“Once I knew the parents’ rights were signed off and he had nowhere to go, I [knew] I had to take him.”
The official adoption papers were signed two years later.
A similar situation.
One of the reasons why Tony’s story moved to Peter so much was because he, himself, had lived through something similar. Born in Uganda to abusive parents, Peter ran away from home at the age of 10. He found someone who acted as a parent figure to him and helped him through school.
“They became my sponsor, my family. I grew up with the poorest 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.”
Peter moved to the United States as an Adult and eventually gained citizenship. He works for World Vision United States helping kids who live in disadvantaged and difficult places. He has also fostered 12 children in the last three years.
The perfect match.
After meeting Tony, Peter knew he had to legally become his father.
“He’s the nicest, smartest kid I’ve ever had,” Peter told “Good Morning America.” “From day one, he’s always called me ‘dad.’ He truly meant it and he looks up to me.”
Peter had all of the resources, financial capabilities, and space in his home to adopt Tony, so there really wasn’t a question as to what he was going to do. Now the pair live in North Carolina and Peter is helping Tony work through the trauma of his childhood. Soon they will have another foster kid join them as well.
Foster Care in America
Peter and Tony’s story is a beautiful one. Unfortunately, there are thousands of kids in the American foster care system who haven’t been so lucky.
Currently, on any day, there are roughly 443,000 children in foster care in the United States. Children spend an average of two years in the system, while many are bounced around for five years or more. Children entering foster care are not as young as people think, either: The average age for kids entering the system for the first time is eight years old. Many of these children live in family settings, however, eleven percent live in group homes and institutions.
More than 10,000 children leave foster care each year not because they were adopted, but because they became too old for the system. These children are more likely to become homeless, unemployed, or incarcerated than any other population group.
How you can help.
There are many ways you can help kids in foster care:
- Become a foster parent yourself.
- Consider adopting a child.
- Donate to children’s rights groups that directly support children in foster care.
- Donate to foster families.
- Volunteer with organizations that support foster kids. (For example, CASA)
- Become a mentor for current and former foster kids. (Try Foster Care to Success)
- Become a respite foster parent: This is someone with the necessary qualifications and background check to watch over foster kids so their foster parents can have a much-needed break.
There are so many ways you can support foster children so that more kids will have a story like Peter and Tony’s. Remember, the more kids that are helped will have a positive impact on the future of the United States and the rest of the world.