This is the incredible story of a very special man named Michael J. Bowler who became a single father of a boy stuck in the foster system.
“‘I never asked for any of this!’ screams my sobbing eight-year-old foster son to his new therapist when he learns that, despite being on an adoption track with me, he must endure more therapy and more ‘services,’ which he’d been forced to be part of since the age of four,” Bowler recalled the star of his journey towards parenthood.
In 2015, he turned to Raise A Child event in Los Angeles in order to see if he could be an adoptive parent. Learning that despite being single he was legally allowed to adopt made Bowler’s heart skip a beat.
The boy he was supposed to welcome into his home was 8-year-old Ronald who moved from one foster home to another after he suffered severe abuse. He ended up in the system even before he turned 5, and his life was already hard even without the constant need to adapt to a number of foster parents.
After the first three hours spent together, Ronald asked for three more. When asked how he felt in the company of his potential adoptive father, the boy answered, “It’s like we’re the same person!” and Bowler felt exactly the same.
“Once he moves in, Ronald believes that, since he’s now in an adoptive home, he’ll be free of the constraints of foster care and, more importantly, that the adoption will finalize sooner, rather than later. It takes many weeks and numerous visits by his new team members before Ronald will even speak to them, hence the cry of anguish with which I opened this post,” Bowler continued his story.
Ronald experienced trauma after one of his foster fathers forced him to rewrite mathematical standards for hours, so the boy felt repulsive towards both math and writing.
On top of that, Ronald would hoard all his toys, even those which were broken. Bowler found out that it was a result of yet another trauma. Apparently, a former foster parent would accuse Ronald of lying and would cut up all of his stuffed animals as a punishment.
“Ronald is now eleven and his adoption was finalized, at long last, in January. After such a lengthy wait, with numerous roadblocks thrown into our path by his bio mother and a court system that sadly, puts the wants of irresponsible adults above the needs of children, his dream of the past seven years finally comes to fruition,” Bowler wrote.
“He told me when we first met, ‘I’ve wanted to be adopted all the time I’ve been in foster care,’ and, in his excitement, barely sleeps the night before that dream is to become a reality.
“On Adoption Day, I wake him early so we can get ready and make the hour-long drive to the courthouse. He sits up at once, grabbing me in a tight hug, gushing, ‘Today’s the day!’ I know him well enough to notice the look on his face and slight undertone to his voice – he’s been in the system too long to believe in the adoption until it actually occurs. We dress in matching suits and ties and Ronald, like most young boys, complains about his tie being too tight, while also beaming at the reason for wearing it.”
At the courtroom, the soon-to-be legal father and son were met by Bowler’s sister and nephew as well as Rich Valenza, founder and CEO of Raise a Child.
“When finally called upstairs, we enter a quiet courtroom with the judge examining paperwork on his desk. He doesn’t acknowledge us, but merely waits for our attorney to speak. This man has been an intimidating force in Ronald’s life since the age of four and has watched my son grow up in his courtroom over the years as he approved Ronald’s move from foster home to foster home. Not once does the judge speak to my son, congratulate him, try to put him at ease after all those terrifying court appearances in the past. As the judge reads out the declaration that Ronald and I are now a family, my son hugs me. I feel choked with emotion and he looks ready to cry with happiness,” Bowler continued.
On the way home Ronald told his dad that it was the happiest day of his life. It was definitely the same for Bowler.
The adoption was celebrated with a huge party attended by everyone who supported Bowler from day one. All of his family and friends were there, including Ronald’s friends from school and some of the foster care workers and social care workers who knew Ronald from the day he entered the system and did all in their power to help him find his forever home.
“As other friends arrive, they play giant Jenga, darts, beanbag toss, and Nerf wars in the backyard. Hearing the laughter and good cheer coupled with smiling happy faces, pulls my heart tight in my chest with happiness. We have food and a huge cake, which he cuts and dispenses to kids and adults alike. He opens presents and notes with amusement how many people have given us photo frames with the word ‘Family’ emblazoned on them. I remind him that today is a celebration of our family and he grins broadly.
“We have photos on display from the adoption, alongside a commemorative gift I gave him on Adoption Day: father-son bobbleheads depicting me as Batman and he as Robin (though I told him the “R” on his chest is for Ronald). Written along the base are the words “Family is Forever.” The artist custom-made these bobbleheads so the faces look exactly like ours and they will remain a fun reminder of the day we became an official family, even though he was my son from the moment he walked through my door and has never been treated as anything less.”
As the party was over, sweet Ronald told his dad that it was his second best day ever. Those words meant the world to the new father who embarked the adventure of parenthood.