Taneeka Ingram was at work assisting one of her patients one Friday last October when she received a call that would change her life.
"Do you remember Jakobe?" a woman asked.
Of course, she remembered Jakobe, the little boy she cared for in 2016 as a home health nurse with Viva Pediatrics. Jakobe was born premature at 26 weeks and spent the first nine months of his life in the newborn intensive care unit. Ingram had been charged with helping Jakobe, who required an oxygen tank and had to be fed through a gastronomy button in his stomach, through his transition back home. Although she hadn’t worked with Jakobe for over two years, she had often thought of and prayed for him.
"He was a precious baby. He was so sweet," said Ingram, 33. "I liked to sit there and hold him and rock him and play with him. I loved it."
Ingram and her husband, Terrence Roberson, 31, would soon learn that Jakobe had entered the foster care system and was in need of a permanent home. On Thursday, after serving as his foster parents for the past eight months, Ingram and Roberson became a "forever family" with Jakobe as part of Austin Adoption Day.
Held at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center, the annual Austin Adoption Day aims to celebrate adoptive families and draw attention to the continuing need for foster and adoptive homes. On Thursday, 39 children were adopted into 23 families as part of the event, which is put on by the Austin Bar Association, the Austin Bar Foundation, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and CASA of Travis County.
"What we’ve experienced this morning right here in Austin, Texas, is proof certain that angels walk among us and miracles happen," said Judge Darlene Byrne, who presided over Jakobe’s adoption. "Boy, is that a good day."
For Ingram and Roberson, Thursday felt like a long time coming. The couple knew they wanted a family even before they got married in 2018, and they had recently started fertility treatments when they received the call about Jakobe from Anna Parris, an adoption recruiter with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids partners with Child Protective Services to place children with higher needs like Jakobe, who is still fed through his gastronomy button and has autism.
While reviewing Jakobe’s file, which was more than 2,000 pages long, Parris came across Ingram’s name and, surprisingly, her cellphone number. She called Ingram on a Friday afternoon; after their conversation, Ingram said she would consult with her husband.
"For me, it was already a yes. I talked to my husband that night and he was on board. He was like, ‘Call her!’" Ingram said. "We had to wait until Monday to actually talk to her. It was dreadful."
After Ingram and Roberson completed the required six-month process to become licensed foster parents through Angelheart, a child placement agency, Jakobe joined their household in March. As a nurse, Ingram was uniquely qualified to care for Jakobe and knew immediately how to handle his special needs. Roberson, who also works in the medical field as a treatment plan coordinator at Austin State Hospital, said it was easy to love Jakobe.
"He had a great smile, and he just gravitated toward me," Roberson said.
Even before he was living with them, Ingram and Roberson had decided to stop fertility treatments. They knew they had found their son.
During the emotional and at times tear-filled adoption ceremony, Jakobe, looking sharp in a plaid button-down shirt, switched contentedly between his mom’s and dad’s laps.
When attorney Denise Hyde asked Parris how she was feeling about the day, Parris told the courtroom, "I can’t think of a more serendipitous, made-in-heaven match. It is just the most perfect family for Jakobe."
Despite the happy tone of Austin Adoption Day, which was "Wizard of Oz"-themed and featured yellow brick roads throughout the courtrooms, there were also reminders of how many children are still in need of adoptive homes. Across Texas, Byrne said, 3,199 children are waiting to be adopted, including 69 children in Travis County.
Roberson, who had never expected to be an adoptive parent, also encouraged people to be open-minded about it.
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"We didn’t see it coming, but we embraced it. This has been such a blessing to us," Roberson said as he looked toward the son who now shares his last name. "There are a lot of kids out here that need parents. Don’t be afraid to adopt. They all need happy homes. If you can provide a happy home and stable environment for these kids, please do it."
To learn more about adoption, visit adoptchildren.org.