Just 8 and 6 years old, Ariel and Sammy spent years in Oregon’s foster care system. They lived in different homes, with different families. But in November 2018, they made their final and forever stop — moving in with a family that would become their last. And in August 2019, Ariel and Sammy’s adoption was finalized, making them permanent members of the Beatty family.
On a Tuesday morning on the outskirts of Corvallis, Oregon, there’s a party happening. In the field around Cami and Garrett Beatty’s home there’s a huge flying saucer bouncy-house, inflatable obstacle course, bubbles, and waffles with sprinkles and berries and whipped cream. With dozens of friends milling around, eating and playing, this looks like the best birthday party ever. What they’re celebrating is something different, but just as momentous.
“We wanted this to be a celebration,” says Cami. “We want to look back on this day and say, ‘Remember when you became Beattys?’”
This party is for Ariel and Sammy, the newest official members of the Beatty family.
Ariel, 8, has her dark brown hair pulled back into two French braids, and she started the day in a beautiful navy dress with a sweet white lace top — before changing out of it to play once the party started. She has an amazing imagination when she plays, is a rising soccer star, and is the sweetest big sister to her little brother. Sammy, 6, has hair that matches his sister’s in color, shaved short on the sides and left to loop into soft curls on top.
“Sammy is just a big ball of energy!” says Garrett, Sammy’s former foster parent, who is now his dad. “But he is also a lover. He takes any chance he has to wrap his arms around your neck, give you a kiss and say ‘I love you.’”
While these sweet siblings knew today would be a big day, it was bigger than they ever imagined.
Ariel and Sammy’s Adoption Day
Ariel and Sammy wake up early to find extended family gathered at their home, everyone talking excitedly as they get dressed and prepared to leave for the adoption ceremony they knew was scheduled. However, a few of the day’s details have been left a surprise, so Ariel and Sammy get ready and join the other kids upstairs, where they sit watching a cartoon.
It’s time to go to the courthouse. They file downstairs, cheers of “whoa!” and “no way!” erupting as they see a long stretch limo waiting for them outside the door.
“Princesses get to go in limos!” Ariel says, excitedly climbing into the back.
The drive to the courthouse takes just under 10 minutes. And as the family walks up the stairs together into the iconic-looking white building, Ariel and Sammy are noticeably reserved.
Garrett picks Sammy up, and Sammy wraps all four limbs around him in a hug, resting his head on his shoulder as they walk into the courtroom. Garrett, Cami, Ariel and Sammy, along with their soon-to-be siblings Fololo and Asher, all make their way to the front, where Ariel sits on Cami’s lap — a full room of family and friends filling up the rows behind them.
The official adoption ceremony begins.
“How lucky are you, Mr. and Mrs. Beatty,” the judge states, “to have Ariel and Sammy in your life.” Behind the stand, the judge herself becomes emotional as she asks both Ariel and Sammy, separately, if they want to join the Beatty family forever.
“Yes.” Both Ariel and Sammy say into the microphone, in tiny, sweet — but confident — voices.
When you’re adopted, the judge says, you are given a new name, and a new place to belong.
To signify this, Ariel and Sammy both add a charm with their name on it to Cami’s necklace, alongside the names of Asher and Fololo.
Ariel and Sammy sign their adoption certificates with crayon, then both hit down the gavel.
“I declare you a legal and loving family,” the judge says.
Cheers and smiles erupt from the courtroom.
Garrett and Cami are not new to adoption. They always knew it would be a part of their story.
“God has blessed us so much, so richly,” Cami says. “We have this love to share, so why would we not share it with these kids?”
Their oldest son, 10-year-old Asher, was adopted from Ethiopia in 2009. And their daughter, 8-year-old Fololo, has been a member of their family for three years since she was adopted from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While there are lots of similarities between international and domestic adoption, birth family connection can be a point of difference. Connection with biological families is extremely important for all adoptees, whether placed through international or domestic adoption. But for international adoptees who may have little to no information about their birth family, their connection may be more abstract — marked by many conversations and wonderings about their first mother and father, imagining shared traits and interests.
“With Asher and Fololo,” Garrett says, “unless God decides to move mountains, we probably won’t ever know their [biological] mom or dad.”
But with adoption from foster care, and for Ariel and Sammy, it’s different. There’s nothing abstract about their first family. Their biological relatives live in a neighboring county, and Cami and Garrett are committed to having an open adoption relationship, including multiple visits in person each year.
“Navigating the ins and outs of having those meetings, the relationship has been frustrating at times and good at times,” Garrett says. “But for the kids to know who they are and where they came from — that we’re ‘mom’ and ‘dad,’ but that they’re ‘bio mom and dad,’ — we want to be supportive of that.”
“It’s important,” Cami says.
Holt Foster Care and Adoption in Oregon
Holt has a long legacy of being an international adoption agency, with current adoption programs in eight different countries. But in response to a greater number of children in the foster care system — and the overwhelming need for them to find families — Holt has over the past few years increasingly focused on foster care and adoption in Oregon and Washington.
“Here in the U.S. we have a significant problem.” says Greg Eubanks, Holt’s senior vice president for U.S. foster care and adoption. “Over 440,000 children are in our foster care system, and more than 120,000 of those youth are waiting for adoption. While child welfare professionals seek to provide services and supports that will reunite children with biological parents, there are simply not enough foster or adoptive families ready to welcome children of all ages into their homes,” he says.
Foster care and adoption is a journey that can be complex, and for the child it involves a difficult beginning – as was the case for Ariel and Sammy.
“The beginning of their story starts with loss. There’s hard stuff there,” Cami says. “They’ve had multiple stops along the way to get here.”
Cami and Garrett first decided to pursue foster care and adoption after learning of the need in their community. Three years ago, they provided emergency respite care to a 13-year-old girl who was in the foster care system and needed a temporary place to stay. While she eventually moved on to a more permanent placement, the experience opened Cami and Garrett’s eyes — and hearts — to the idea of adoption through the foster care system.
“It was a year ago June when we first saw their picture,” Cami says, about how they first learned about Ariel and Sammy. They immediately called their social worker and inquired about the siblings. From that point, things moved along relatively quickly.
The Beattys met Ariel and Sammy a couple months later, and began the several-week transition of moving them into their home.
In their short lives, Ariel and Sammy had been placed with five different families. But in November, they made their final stop when they moved in with the Beattys — their soon-to-be permanent family.
And this, was something to celebrate.
An Adoption Celebration
That’s why, after the ceremony at the courthouse, Cami and Garrett planned a surprise adoption day party for Ariel and Sammy.
“There’s been so much praying and waiting and planning and being excited for this day,” Cami says. “For nine months. Today holds a lot of joy.”
It’s a day, they decided, that Ariel and Sammy deserve to remember.
“This is forever,” Garrett said. “This is really important for them to know. This is it. This is your family.”
So with waffles topped with fruit and candy, jumping with friends inside an enormous flying saucer, and blessings prayed over the new family of six, today will forever be marked as a new chapter in Ariel and Sammy’s story. The day they became Beattys.
Megan Herriott | Copywriter
Photos by Emily Gigoux Photography
Want to learn more about Holt’s foster care and adoption program? Contact Greg Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org or Melissa Reese at email@example.com.