Heart Gallery - Thank You

The Wangerin Family – Luke, Johnny, Liliana, and Victor

Our story starts back in 2014 when we started to look into surrogacy and adoption. We started the adoption process on our own using an agency we heard about from California that helped same sex couples. The Texas office of this agency was in Houston. Driving back and forth a few weekends a month to Houston, combined with some personal matters and the fact that we were two dads’ trying to adopt, prolonged the process for us. There were some negative experiences around our relationship as it pertained to the adoption process and that discouraged us a bit, so we decided to put having children on hold.  

In January 2018, my husband Jonathan and I got a letter from Anna Parris from Wendy’s Wonderful Kids about trying to find placement for his biological niece, Liliana. We opened the letter that night and the following morning we contacted Anna to get additional information. It didn’t take us long to decide that we would be open to the process of getting Liliana placed with us. Before we did, Anna wanted us to read some information on Liliana first. It said Liliana had been diagnosed with Autism, was non-verbal, had high aggression and a lot of other things that could scare any new parents away.  

Going back to 2012, when Jonathan and I started our relationship; I met Liliana and her sister back when they were still living with my sister-in-law. We talked about having kids and if the time came and we were ready to adopt either or both of them, that we would adopt them. Months later, Liliana and her sister were placed into CPS custody, but we were not ready to adopt at that time as we were still starting our relationship, and we also had not been contacted when they were placed with CPS, so we didn’t know much about the situation.  

After meeting with Anna, we opted to move forward with the placement process. We knew, based on having been married in 2014, and the conversation we had in 2012, that there was no delay on making our decision. Before placing our adoption process on hold back in 2014, we found the Central Texas Heart Gallery. It was so sad to see so many children looking for a place to call home. Having Liliana become part of our family story continued for almost exactly 9 months from when we initially started our foster training with Helping Hand Home, the agency we chose to get licensed through. During this process, we kept up with the Heart Gallery to keep us motivated about adoption. We started visitations in July of 2018 with Liliana and her current foster home. We completed everything we needed to be licensed and we had our first overnight stay with Liliana in our home Thanksgiving week. December 3rd, Liliana was placed with us as a foster to adopt placement. We learned in that time that there are great things in place to help parents with the foster to adoption process. We were lucky to have the best agency to help us foster and eventually adopt Liliana as of February 26, 2020. The Central Texas Heart Gallery helped us with resources and networking with other parents. It helped us so much that we have been in process of fostering to adopt another child from the Heart Gallery.  

COVID has made our first experience of being paired with a child slightly more difficult, but we know from adopting Liliana, that the end result is very rewarding. Once we have completed this process with our second child, we will have found two wonderful, special needs children from the Heart Gallery. If you are ever afraid of what lies ahead when you foster or foster to adopt, the biggest piece of advice we can give is to continue thinking about how you are helping another child to have a family.  

Having children to us is part of that circle of life no matter who you are: Mom & Dad, Mom & Mom, Dad & Dad, or just a Mom or just a Dad. Family makes a difference to a child and it makes just as much of a difference for you. This experience has been very rewarding for us. We are grateful to everyone who helped us, is helping us and grateful for the wonderful people out there to help parents with the process.