When Tani and Carlos Rivera set out to create their family, they both agreed on fostering to adopt. They envisioned their family with maybe a sibling set, especially one that was already legally free for adoption. “That was our plan,” Tani said.
They didn’t picture a newborn.
But it never really works out according to plan, does it?
Having finished their requisite courses, but without their paperwork finalized, they thought it’d be at least another six months before the couple received their first placement. Instead, they received a call right away asking them if they’d be interested in a newborn.
That was a Thursday.
By Friday afternoon, Carlos was rushing out to get a car seat and crib so 3-day-old Shanoah could come home with them later that day.
“When my wife called me at work to tell me that they wanted to know if we were willing to take a newborn, my heart started racing. I said to her, ‘This might be our one chance. Call her back and say yes,'” Carlos said. “Best decision we ever made; this little girl has been a Godsend.”
That night Shanoah helped Tani celebrate her birthday at their home together — as a family.
“It was the best birthday in the entire world,” Tani said. “It was love at first sight”
“We could never have imagined that such a wonderful child would bless our lives and our home the way she has,” Tani said. “She is smart, funny, sweet, kind, loving, playful, energetic and imaginative.”
Tani explains that as they’ve watched Shanoah grow to an almost 3-year-old, they’ve discovered that she loves to sing, dance, swim, play in her sandbox, and be outdoors. She also loves animals and has an amazing memory.
On Nov. 16, 2018, National Adoption Day, Shanoah, Tani and Carlos legally became a family.
The three got there around 9 a.m., and adopted their daughter just an hour later.
The social worker and MAP instructor that originally called Tani about Shanoah was able to be there.
“It was really neat that she saw us from the beginning to the very end,” Tani said.
Even Shanoah felt the joy and happiness throughout the atmosphere. She got a balloon animal and took pictures with storm troopers, who participated to make the day even more exciting for kids. Her parents listened to moving speeches and everyone got to be together.
“She loves parties,” Tani said laughing. “The feeling in the room is something I’ll never forget. So many happy people.”
But it didn’t feel real until Tani got the adoption certificate and took it to the doctor’s office, daycare and the dentist to update Shanoah’s information.
“Then it started to sink in,” she said. “This is really real.”
That’s when she was finally able to let it all go and “take a deep breath again.”
“You just never know until the judge gives you that signature,” Tani said.
She highly suggests anyone thinking about adopting through foster care to have a support network through family, friends, and All Our Kids.
“Honestly, I can’t imagine having gone through the last three years without being able to reach out to other families who are going through the same process,” she said.
Tani hopes this isn’t the end of their family tree. Although previous efforts haven’t been fruitful, she plans to continue to reach out to Shanoah’s birth relatives, especially a sister, to try and create that bond Tani knows is so important.
“We’re not going to give up because we definitely want her to know who her relatives are and have some kind of relationship.”
At three years old, it’s not something Shanoah can articulate but Tani is already thinking about all the ways she can support her daughter when she gets older.
For now, they’re looking forward to Shanoah’s third birthday. Tani thinks they might go to the Dr. Seuss museum because Shanoah loves Dr. Seuss. They read Dr. Seuss’ ABC’s every night before bed.
But it’s the simple things they can do as a family that they’re looking forward to most.
While fostering, families can’t take children across state lines without permission from their social worker. So, the Rivera family might soon be taking a day trip to Connecticut, without needing any formal permission from any state agency.
What will look like a simple family outing will mean so much more.