AUSTIN -- There are thousands of kids in foster care across Texas, and many of them wonder, why can't I have a forever family? Thursday, that dream came true for dozens of Central Texas children on the 14th annual Austin Adoption Day.
For kids like Christina, Angel, and Damian, the day changed the rest of their lives. Just before noon, Lynette Villareal became their mother.
"They're my world," Villareal said. "I love them. They're my family."
A total of 45 children were welcomed with open arms into their new families at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Center. During the ceremony, each child can choose a stuffed animal and receives a special necklace inscribed with their name and the date they joined their forever family. It helps them know they were chosen and they are loved.
"It's obviously hard being a parent, Joanna and I didn't know what the hell we were doing when we brought them in 2-years-ago," said Josh Foster.
He and his wife Joanna adopted 16-year-old DeJuan Ross and his 14-year-old sister Alicia. The kids are thrilled they can now call their long-time mentors mom and dad.
"Today was a beautiful day" DeJuan said. "These people that I got now, they care for me and I know now that I'm assisted in everything that I do now that I'm with them."
In Texas, 6800 kids in foster care who've been the victims of abuse or neglect are still waiting to be adopted. It's a heartbreaking reality child advocates want to change.
"Today, 184 Travis County children are waiting for a family," said Travis County Civil Court Judge Darlene Byrne. "That's shameful. We can do better."
While the number of kids adopted from state care has gone up 62% over the past decade, the need for loving homes went up by 35% during the same period. And those who've opened their hearts and homes to a child hope others will do the same.