When something is meant to be, oftentimes you just know. That’s how Sara Cozad of Bellingham, Washington felt when she first set eyes on the young man who would be come her oldest son.
Sara met her husband, Stuart Shank, when she was just 19. They shared a desire to open their home and hearts to children in need, and just weeks after returning from their honeymoon, they began training to be foster parents.
Sara always said she’d prefer to foster younger children, particularly toddlers and babies. She felt that because she was so young, she didn’t have the life experience yet to parent older kids. “I was only 23 at the time, and the idea of fostering older kids and teens seemed unfathomable,” she explained.
As soon as they were licensed, the couple was asked to take a three-year-old for a weekend. “That weekend turned into a week. And that week into months. And those months into years. That little boy is our son, Michael.”
Michael had been living with Sara and Stuart for several months when they agreed to supervise a visit with his older sibling, Dayshawn. Sara said that watching the two brothers reunite ignited a maternal flame deep within her heart.
“The second Michael caught a glimpse of his brother from across the playground, he ran with all his might and jumped into his arms. It was that second that Stuart and I looked at each other and we truly understood the importance of Dayshawn and Michael needing to be together.”
While the couple was still hesitant to take Dayshawn in due to his age, they decided to take a leap of faith once they talked to him. “There’s only a 13-year age difference between me and Dayshwan,” said Sara. “But the second I started talking to him, all my fears went out the window… Being his mom feels so natural. He doesn’t even seem to notice that I’m so young (or he just doesn’t care.) To him I’m just his mom.”
A few years later, it became clear that Sara and Stuart were more than Michael and Dayshawn’s foster parents; they had become a tight family unit that should never be separated. Sara and Stuart began the process of adopting the two brothers, and the kids could not have been happier.
“If someone told me 5 years ago I would be 26 and adopting a teenager, I would have thought they were crazy. Now I can’t imagine it any other way,” Sara wrote on Instagram. “I’m sharing this in hopes that anyone who is considering fostering doesn’t rule out older kids & teens. It’s not always easy, but it is so, so worth it.”
Now, Sara is working in her city to encourage more parents to open their hearts to children who need them. She explained that while the ultimate goal for most foster situations is reuniting the kids with their parents, sometimes things work out like they did for her family.
“We’ve fostered 14 children, some long term and some emergency placements,” she said. “People always say, ‘Oh, I could never be a foster parent. I would get too attached and it would hurt when they go home.’ And that’s true. It is hard. And I cry every single time a child leaves. But reunification can be a beautiful thing. We’re so lucky to have close relationships with many of the parents of our foster children. Our relationship with these children doesn’t have to end just because they return home.”
“Fostering is in no way easy, but I can guarantee it will be the most worthwhile thing you will ever do.”
Congratulations to Sara, Stuart, Dayshawn, and Michael! This story is a powerful reminder of the power of love and the magical way that families are created each day.
Watch Sara’s sweet adoption video below (grab the tissues!), and don’t forget to share.