‘A new life’: Austin rings in National Adoption Month as pandemic impacts adoption levels

Austin

Austin will celebrate National Adoption Month Nov. 3 by uniting 20 children with 12 families. (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For Ava Smith, officially becoming her grandchildren’s adoptive mother marks a “final prayer” answered after a years-long journey.

“We have finally come to a closure of an old life, beginning a new life,” Smith said. “And a new beginning is always exciting. And that’s what these kids have waited for.”

With November marking National Adoption Month, 12 families will celebrate the next chapter of their lives and the finalization of their adoption efforts. Smith joined their ranks, now the mother of her grandchildren Aniiah Mariee Crenshaw, Isaiah Art Crenshaw and Elijah Laison Crenshaw.

Smith first adopted Elijah in 2015, but it’s been a yearslong effort toward becoming Aniiah and Isaiah’s adoptive mother. Their journey in and out Child Protective Services isn’t an isolated experience.

Nearly 4,600 children were adopted statewide during fiscal year 2020-2021, with 191 of them in Travis County. Currently, there are 2,902 children awaiting reunion with their permanent families and adoption homes, per a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services release.

“Family isn’t always about blood, and it’s not always what people are born into,” DFPS Adoption Prep Supervisor Lacy Vavra said in the release. “It’s about what you work for, and who you care for. Every family that we are celebrating this week and the hundreds who have adopted over the past year have worked very hard to become that.”

On Thursday morning, 20 children will reunite with 12 families, marking the culmination of their forever home search.

126th District Court Judge Aurora Martinez Jones said while she will miss seeing Smith’s two new children on a more regulated basis, she is excited for the life and journey each of them will now live under Smith’s custody.

“I’m so glad you have your brother and your mom and a wonderful support system with your family,” she said, adding to Smith: “You are one strong mama, so thank you so, so much.”

For Smith, today’s festivities will include either a visit to Applebee’s or Olive Garden, along with plenty of playtime outside in the cooler weather. And while Aniiah and Isaiah are beginning the next chapter of their lives, they were each given a reminder of the journey they’ve been on and well wishes for all that’s to come.

“The judge gave me a letter saying that I was special and unique, and saying she knows we’ve been down a long road and how long it’s been, and just saying we’re unique and special to the world,” Aniiah said. “And it was just great to have her as our judge.”

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