Fourteen-year-old Jassir wore a navy blue suit coat, dark pants and a pair of clean-white Vans while sitting in a chair in courtroom of the Lindsey Flanagan Courthouse. He had to look how he felt — great. Because Friday was the day that he was adopted by Morgan and Jeff Richards, bringing an end to seven years of meandering through the foster care system.
He was one of 23 Denver children who found new homes Friday during the 15th annual Denver Adoption Day, an event that was held in conjunction with National Adoption Day. A celebration at the courthouse featured therapy dogs, free food and four adoption hearings where the families were completed. Jassier was the only teenager officially joining a new family; teenagers generally are the least likely age group to be adopted, multiple people attending the event said.
“To be honest, it’s a weird feeling. It’s kind of sad because I’ve been in foster care for as long as I remember,” Jassir said. “But the happiness outweighs that. Because now I can live my life with one family and not have to worry about moving so much.”
About three years ago, the Richards decided that they wanted to adopt again. Jeff, 56, and Morgan, 55, adopted their daughter, Teagan, 16, when she was an infant. They wanted Teagan to be the older sibling, but bringing in an infant and committing to those early-morning feedings was out of the question, Jeff said. They also wanted a child close to Teagan’s age.
When they narrowed their choices to three kids, Teagan pushed her parents to Jassir. The match fit like a glove when he arrived in the Richards’ household in June 2018.
“I was in a group home previously,” Jassir said. “My case worker found them and they found me. We linked up and the rest is history.”
In what has become his permanent home, Jassir has fostered his passions thanks to the newfound stability.
Right now, he plays guitar and piano. But, as he puts it, show him any instrument and he’ll “figure it out pretty soon.”
If Jassir isn’t playing or listening to music, he’s either on the lacrosse field, basketball court or exploring new hobbies.
On a whim, he auditioned for junior community theater. Though it was his first time, he ended up landing a small role.
“They even asked him to come back next year,” Morgan Richards said. “He’s got all of these gifts.”
But Jassir flourishing in athletics and the arts aren’t what defines him to the Richards. It’s how he carries himself and treats others. Had a bad day? Jassir asks you about it and genuinely wants to help you feel better, Jeff Richards said.
“He’s also really stubborn,” Jeff Richards said with a grin.
“Just like me,” Morgan Richards added. “We love and also hate that about each other.”
He’s also humble, they said. Jassir stumbles over some words and gives short, tentative answers when asked about himself. Ask about his new parents and sister, though, and a smile sweeps across his face while those personality traits — the love for his friends, the empathy he feels when someone he loves is hurting — are amplified.
“I’ve been with the family for a year-and-a-half now,” Jassir said. “They’re really caring with kind hearts. I’ve been in the foster system for seven years now and they brought that to an end.”
Jassir is one of the lucky teens to have been adopted. A child in foster care ages out of the system at 18. Only 3% of kids who age out will receive a college degree, according to the National Foster Youth Institute.
“Every child deserves a safe home and a family, no matter their age,” Morgan said. “We came to understand that people might think adopting a teenager is too much to do, but we realized that it’s what we must do.”
Dozens of friends and family packed a second-floor courtroom with balloons and signs congratulating the Richards family. One of their neighbors, who aged out of the foster care system, called through FaceTime so she could witness the end to an 18-month process.
“It’s been a long road,” Jeff said. “When the judge made it official, that wasn’t the cap stone. It was turning around and seeing everyone there supporting us.”
Jassir said he was thankful for the day after seven years of constant moving and the fake-outs when he thought he was being adopted.
“There were a lot of times where I thought I would never be here. One of my foster families tried to adopt me, then it fell through,” Jassir said. “But hey, it led me to these lovely people.”