AUSTIN -- There are more than 6,300 children across Texas who are waiting to be adopted. Close to 200 of them are right here in Travis County.
Thursday there were tears and cheers as 28 kids finally had their dreams come true and became part of forever families.
On this day, colorful stuffed animals and bright balloons fill the courtrooms at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center. The theme is the Wizard of Oz: There's no place like home.
It's a poignant reminder to 18-year-old Alex Vega-Wells that his life is about to change.
“I don't have to worry about where I'm going to go for Christmas, where I'm going to go for Thanksgiving,” Alex said. “I have a place to call home now.”
“This is a commitment we're in, and we're in for the long haul,” his adoptive mother Kelly Wells said.
Alex entered the foster care system in 2008. Now he'll have two loving parents and a little brother named Westin.
Alex is among five teens joining new families this Austin Adoption Day. Of the more than 6300 children available for adoption statewide, 42 percent are between ages 10 and 17. For older kids, the odds of finding a forever family are low. Experts say 36 percent of the kids who age out of foster care end up homeless. Quite a few more end up behind bars.
It's a future Eric Huerca Thibideaux, Jr.'s new family says won't happen to him. Flanked by his parents and three little sisters, the 17-year-old says he's ready to begin his new life.
“When I get home, I'm probably going to be like super happy, jumping all over the place,” Eric said. “I'm just really happy right now.”
And with the stroke of a pen it's legal, final, and forever.
“Adoption granted!” says Eric’s new sister Persia, as she bangs the gavel and onlookers inside the courtroom cheer.
Alex and Eric were also the proud recipients of a $500 scholarship, from the newly established Denise Hyde Scholarship Fund. It's named in honor of the local attorney who handled their adoptions and who is a driving force behind Austin Adoption Day.