We all celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries and other significant milestones. For Kayla Balassone of Tukwila, an annual celebration is her Adoption Day. That day transformed her life.
Balassone was just four years old when she entered the state foster care system with her little brother. They bounced around between their birth mother and foster homes several times. It wasn’t a great experience and Kayla often felt confused, scared and ungrounded.
Then Lutheran Community Services Northwest stepped in. Staff from the Permanency Planning Foster-Adopt program placed young Kayla and her brother into a foster home with Mary Lou Balassone. Mary Lou was prepared to provide a stable and loving home for the youngsters until the state decided if reunification with their birth mother was appropriate. If it wasn’t, she was ready to give them a permanent home through adoption.
At first, young Kayla was sure she’d have to move again. But the days became weeks and the weeks became months, and the siblings remained with Mary Lou. Before long, little brother Dustin was calling Mary Lou “Mom.”
“I told my brother that he shouldn’t call Mary Lou ‘mom’ because she wasn’t really our mother,” recalled Kayla. “I still considered this living arrangement temporary and didn’t start calling her mom myself until I was in first grade.”
Adoption Day was December 11, 1995. Kayla was just six years old, but she remembers the day well.
“There were so many people in attendance,” she said. “The judge asked some of them to step outside but my Mom insisted that everyone be present to witness the adoption so the judge relented. Afterwards, we had a party at our house.”
The children were raised by a single parent, but an incredibly caring and capable one according to Kayla. Mary Lou set boundaries and Kayla tested them. She helped her daughter navigate some challenging teen years that involved drinking, drug use and overcoming abandonment issues. She encouraged Kayla to discover her own potential and to get to know herself.
Today, at age 27, Kayla said she is happy. She has a career as a dental assistant. She and her partner (also an adoptee) recently purchased a home together and are busy fixing it up. Kayla has taken up sewing and other crafts. She is comfortable with who she is.
This past December, Kayla, her brother and mother gathered together to celebrate another Adoption Day together—their twenty-first. Life is good!