This guest blog post is written by Roberto Rivera, an adoptive dad whose son, Gabriel, was adopted through the Foundation’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.
The first time I saw my son Gabriel was in an adoption video. At the time, I just remember thinking about how hurt and lost he seemed. I wasn’t sure I could take that on. When I was ready to move forward with adoption, I met Deborah Henry-Bennett, the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter in Atlanta. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was going to change my life and Gabriel’s. When she arrived for our first meeting she came out of the car with a binder. Toward the end of our meeting, I finally asked what she had in it. She smiled, grabbed the binder and said she wanted to introduce me to a child. She thought that I would be a good match. As she began telling me this child’s story, I knew immediately that it was Gabriel. I explained that I had seen his video and felt I wasn’t equipped to handle him. She insisted that we would be a perfect match. She was so certain that I knew I had to meet him.
The first time I met him, I was very nervous. I wasn’t sure that I could be the father of a 16 year old. When Gabriel arrived to our first meeting he started playing video games. I watched and let him play, and eventually he made his way to me. We connected over a love of video games, and then went our separate ways for lunch. Soon after, his caseworker approached me to share that Gabriel had taken an interest in me as well, and wanted to know how I felt about him.
We spent the rest of the day getting to know each other. Gabriel and I spoke about a family vacation and when I mentioned Orlando he took his fingers and started typing on the side of his head. When I looked at him questioningly, he stopped and said this was his computer and he was just thinking. What I didn’t tell him then was that when I was a kid, I did the same thing. I couldn’t believe we had the same mannerisms. That day was particularly special because it was also my father’s birthday. I took it as a sign that my father also knew Gabriel would be my son. Debbie had been right – we were a match!
A month later, Gabriel joined me on a family vacation, where he was able to meet future aunts and cousins and we had an awesome time. He moved in two weeks later and we have been a family ever since. Today, three years later, Gabriel is 19 and thriving. I am so very proud of my son and all of the progress that he has made in a relatively short time. I am proud of the man that he is becoming and I look forward to our family’s future.