On Monday, Child Protection Court of Central Texas Associate Judge Melissa McClenahan pronounced Angel Figueroa the legal mother of her four-year-old granddaughter, Braelynn, during CenTex Adoption Day. Above, Figueroa and four-year-old granddaughter Braelynn await Associate Judge Melissa McClenahan’s decision regarding her legal adoption. Below, Figueroa (center) poses for a picture, commemorating her legal adoption of four-year-old granddaughter Braelynn. Daily Record photos by Zoe Gottlieb
FINDING A FOREVER HOME: 19 children find homes in CenTex Adoption Day celebration
Angel Figueroa, who is already a grandmother, is ready to be a mom all over again.
“They say it’s like another birth,” Angel said. “I was with her when she was born. I’ve taken care of her more than anybody else, so it’s just quite natural.”
On Monday, Child Protection Court of Central Texas Associate Judge Melissa McClenahan pronounced Angel — short for Angelique — the legal mother of her four-year-old granddaughter, Braelynn.
Braelynn’s father died at the age of 36, and her mother is in jail. So Angel, a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services special investigator of 10 years, started the journey to become Braelynn’s legal mother.
“I do this job, so it was tough because it’s personal,” Angel said. “Normally, it’s something that I do with every ounce of effort. But now, this is an amount of effort that I never knew I had. Because this is my granddaughter, and I had to protect her.”
“Even if it meant hurting some family members around me,” she added.
Braelynn was one of 19 children placed with 10 adoptive families in Hays, Caldwell, and Comal counties in celebration of CenTex Adoption Day, hosted by DFPS.
CenTex Adoption Day is one of many events throughout the Central Texas region dedicated to celebrating adoptions and highlighting the need for adoptive families, according to a Texas DFPS, which reported there were 2,704 children still waiting to find permanent adoptive homes at the end of the fiscal year.
McClenahan described the event as a much-needed reprieve from the typical cases on her docket, adding that her DFPS colleagues await Adoption Day “all year long.”
“There’s always someone who’s been affected pretty emotionally, and not in a good way, by our cases that you see on a typical day,” McClenahan said. “And that’s unfortunate because this is child abuse and neglect we’re talking about.”
“And so this is the day we can try to make things right, try to change a life, and so that’s really what it’s all about,” she added.
According to McClenahan, every child that is adopted through CenTex Adoption Day has been under CPS care at some point and is in foster care up until the moment they are adopted.
Such was the case with the little girl dressed head-to-toe in pink, who clung to Angel as camera flashes went off around her.
“It tells me that when she turns to you in her shyness, that that’s her safe place, and that’s wonderful,” McClenahan told Angel, her voice warm. “So that’s very telling. It speaks volumes.”
Angel said Monday’s adoption proceeding was “a weight off [her] shoulders.”
“Her family tried to fight for rights and to take her. I was willing to work with them, but this brings about the worst in people for what they believe at the time to be the right reasons,” she said. “Maybe within a couple of years they’ll be happy, just to see her and get to know her. But I’m willing to try.”
Despite the uncertainty ahead, Angel appeared more excited than trepidatious. She said her next step will be to get Braelynn on a waiting list for a “proper school.”
“I’m now older, being a mom again, and it’s great,” she said. “I have my small fears about her worrying about me getting older, but I’m healthy ... I have some aches and pains, but I’m her grandma, I’m her mom now. I’m going to stay strong and healthy, and I have a reason to now. Big time.”
Those interested in becoming a foster-to-adopt parent can log onto to the www.adoptchildren.org website. This website provides information on where to attend an adoption meeting and spells out the requirements to become a foster-to-adopt parent. The website also features many of the children who are legally free for adoption and who want their very own forever home. Short bios and photographs are included.
The process begins with attending an Adoption Information meeting, where after a short presentation, prospective parents can ask questions about the process that can forever change the life of a child.
If you think you can be a forever parent for a child in Texas, please visit our website at www.adoptchildren.org or call toll-free 1-800-233-3405 for more information.