It took 19 long years, but Monyay Paskalides finally has what she's always wanted: a mother.
Monyay entered the foster care system in Bradenton, Florida, when she was 11 years old. She spent most of her childhood in group homes, where she had the good fortune to meet a very special caseworker.
Monyay met Leah Paskalides when she was assigned to her through the nonprofit Safe Children Coalition. Leah said they "just clicked," and the two of them spent the next six years working together as Monyay finished her schooling. When Monyay turned 16, she began calling Leah "mom."
By that time, Leah knew she wanted to legally adopt Monyay, but her job presented a conflict of interest. When Monyay turned 19 and was due to age out of the system, the teen was scared to start her life without the state and her unofficial mom supporting her.
"It was really hard going from being in a group home with an adult to help you to immediately being by yourself without an adult to help," Monyay explained. "It was lonely."
One day, Leah was watching a documentary about someone who was adopted as an adult when she realized that her relationship with Monyay did not have to end after all.
"It was important to me that she knew that she was wanted by somebody, that somebody loved her," Leah said. "I could say that as many times as I want, but actions speak louder than words."
That same day, Leah made the decision to adopt the 19-year-old, and Monyay was thrilled to accept. Six months later, a judge made their family official in an emotional digital ceremony. Monyay immediately took Leah's last name and will get a new birth certificate to document their permanent family tie.
For Monyay, the ceremony was the culmination of a lifetime of wishes.
"I still can't really describe the way I felt in that moment. It was beyond words. That's the one thing I've wanted my entire life, to have a mom," the teen said. "I never expected to be adopted, and here I am. [Leah] never gave up on me."
With Leah's support, Monyay is now working at a day care center while earning a degree in early childhood education. She hopes to pay her good fortune forward in the future by opening her own group home for teens. Someday soon, she'll be able to give other kids the love and support she received from Leah when she needed it most!
Both Leah and Monyay hope that sharing their story will encourage more people to consider adopting older children and teens.
"It's never too late because I'm grown but I'm still being adopted," Monyay said. "Just because it didn't happen then, it doesn't mean that it won't happen."
Congratulations, Leah and Monyay! Share this story to wish them the best as they start their lives as a beautiful family of two.
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