‘As I was getting ready to terminate my foster license, I got the call: ‘Do you remember Hector?’ My eyes widened. 3 days later he walked into my life, forever.’: Single dad adopts son with autism after emotional journey

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“As he lay there asleep so innocent, I committed myself to him and made him a promise. I promised I would never give up on him. I promised I would care for him, and be his teacher to guide him through life. I promised to always advocate for him, I promised to always fight along his side. I promised to never give up on him, but most of all, I promised to love him unconditionally regardless of whatever came our way. He had no idea who I was, where he was, or what was going to happen next. I didn’t know what was going to happen either, but I knew I was not going to give up.

Courtesy of Ruben Ramos

My name is Ruben. This is mine and Hector’s journey, one which I refer to as ‘My Journey To You.’ It’s the story of how two resilient, strong hearts became the most solid unity of love. I am now 37 years old, and very recently earned the title of ‘Dad.’ I say earned, because It’s cost me my hair, my career, and almost my sanity.

I’m a native Mexican born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. My family and I migrated to the US when I was 7 years old. Migrated almost sounds like a nice, smooth transition, but I can’t quite say it was. There is nothing smooth about having to jump into a cold, muddy river during November to get across to another country, especially when you are only 7 years old. Yup, this is exactly how my family and I made it across to the U.S. I grew up in Waco, Texas. Family of four. Mom and Dad are still married and have been for over 40 years. I grew up in a lower income community and had many struggles, but we managed to pull through.

I’ve always been different. Due to being gay, Mexican, and not having name brand clothes/shoes, I was bullied most of my school years. I was often the target of many bad behaviors, but regardless of the struggles, I graduated. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school. I was also the first and only to achieve a bachelor’s degree. At 29 years old, I became a Marketing Director. Every achievement was always celebrated with family, and my mom was always the first one to know.

So why and how did I decide to adopt? Well, it’s something I always knew I would do. It’s something I envisioned and did not feel I had to wait for the ‘right one’ to do it. When I was almost 15 years old, I had the chance to volunteer at the Children’s Advocacy center. Later in college, as I was pursuing a degree in psychology, I had the chance to do my internship where I chose the women’s shelter. There, I had the chance to spend time with some of the children, play with them, and got to hear some of their stories. While I knew I couldn’t change their life, I knew I had the opportunity to be a positive male role model. The growth and wellbeing of children is something I’ve always been passionate about.

At 33, I decided it was the right time to pursue my life-long goal. I was ready to begin the process, and I did. When I mentioned the idea to mom (as always), she highlighted over and over how much work it is to have children. How hard it would be to do that without family in town (I lived in San Antonio then) to support me and how my handful of friends was not sufficient for what it would take to raise a child. Especially with such a demanding job position. At the time, I was a marketing director and managed 16 counties. I was managing a team both locally and remote. My job did take a lot of my time and energy, but my mind was made up. Mom warned me, and so did the rest of my family, but they all said they would support me. So, on March 14, 2016, I submitted my application for an adoption license. That same day, I also applied for my US citizenship.

A year later, I became a US citizen and 3 days later, I met Hector for the first time. But let’s backup for a bit, as I know many often ask about the training and license process. Let me just say, it was tough and overwhelming. It also took a lot of patience. I completed the 5-day training in July 2016 (back-to-back days), and in November 2016 I was officially licensed. Since then, I waited and waited and waited and waited some more. I attended several adoption events. I would review children’s profiles online, my case worker would send me profiles. It was a constant search with no dual match. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and an emotional rollercoaster, but everything I just mentioned since the application process was only preparing me for what was yet to come.

I initially applied for ‘adopt only’ because I always said I did not want to become attached to a child and then have to give them back to their biological parents or have them transferred to another foster home. Wow was that a selfish, rookie approach. It is tougher to receive placements as an ‘adopt only’ home because the process is tedious and you have to remember, it doesn’t always work out for the children. On top of this, I was single, had never fostered before or had any children. I had a full time job and no family in town for support. On paper, I too would have thought, this is probably not a good home for the child I’m trying to place.

On June 2017, after attending the third foster event, I met the little guy that stole my heart. This kid anchored every bit of me and changed my entire life. This is when I finally met Hector. He was 7 years old, born in Mexico, and hoping for a new start with a loving family and a forever home. Sounds familiar? I still remember the very first time I saw him. I remember what he was wearing, I remember the look in his eyes and how innocent he looked. I couldn’t stop looking at him. Adoption events were always so awkward for me. If you’ve seen the movie Instant Family, it’s very much like that.

I was kind of off to the side, just standing around to see if I could engage with kids. As I was standing there, Hector’s foster mom arrived and was registering him in as I was standing there. She actually asked about me and introduced me to Hector. Once they were in, I asked Hector if he wanted to do some activities at the event. We began by doing the Build-A-Bear activity. We even filled out the bear’s passport and said the bear would one day visit ‘San Antonio,’ which is where I lived at the time. Hector lived in Austin. We spent the entire event together. We ate, rode bikes, and played with silly string. His foster mom was very surprised by how well he listened to me. Hector did not speak at the time. He babbled and pointed at things. He could say a few words in Spanish and some in English, but was considered non-verbal.

Courtesy of Ruben Ramos

When I left the event, I was speechless for a while. I was silent, almost in shock. I felt such joy but could not say a word. All I recall thinking was, ‘I don’t know what just happened, but all I want to do is take care of him. He’s perfect, he’s so perfect, I just want to take care of him.’ So, I inquired and was hoping to be selected as Hector’s foster dad, but I was not selected for him at the time. I remember when and where I was when they told me I was not selected. I was heartbroken; in my heart I just knew he was the one. He was it, he was the child I envisioned.

Shortly after, I became dually licensed and was certified to Foster to Adopt. Seven months later, I was reaching almost 2 years since I’d began the process and had still not been selected for any children. As I returned to Waco and attended mass with my parents on Christmas Eve, the message at mass was ‘open your heart.’ Somehow, this really stood out to me and made a difference in the way I felt. I recall someone asking me on New Year’s Eve, ‘How did you feel about 2018 and what are your goals?’ I responded, ‘I don’t know, but I feel like I just want to love. I want to love so much, I feel like I am so full of love. I want to love and love deeply.’

In January 2018, after still not being selected, I decided I was going to move on and terminate my foster license. It had been emotionally draining and I felt I had to move on and be okay with it. I gave it my best, but it just wasn’t emotionally healthy for me anymore. As I was mentally processing this, I thought about Hector and said to myself, ‘But that’s that one little boy, that if they EVER call me back for. I would say yes in a heartbeat. I don’t care what’s wrong with him, I don’t care what the challenges are, I don’t care. I think he is perfect and I will say yes to him without hesitation.’

Well, exactly a week later as I was getting ready to terminate my foster license, I got that exact same call. My case worker called and I still recall the words, ‘Mr. Ramos, do you remember Hector? Well, it didn’t work out with the family that was selected for him and his caseworker would like to know if you are still interested in him?’ My eyes widened. As I stood there amazed I quickly responded, ‘Absolutely!’ Three days later, Hector walked in through my front door and back into my life. I could not believe my own eyes. There he was, the one I had cried, prayed, and hoped for. There he was standing in front of me again, only this time he was in my home.

Courtesy of Ruben Ramos

Since then, our time together took off. Hector was still non-verbal and had some major behavior challenges. He had experienced some unfortunate events in his life and was not able to channel that in a healthy manner. I immediately started seeking multiple providers, programs, and even attended an autism 101 parent training and ABA training. I knew I had to do everything within my power to support Hector and meet his needs. Shortly after, Hector started receiving all the services he qualified for, from therapies to educational support. I managed all his appointments and was present at each one. At one point, our schedule consisted of 5 appointments per week, while still managing my job as a marketing director, taking care of my dogs, and myself. It was not easy. In fact, many times I wondered if I truly had what it took to help him. It was a lot of work, and eventually I began to feel the impact.

One night, after having experienced multiple days of behaviors and a heavy work load, once I had put Hector to bed and closed his door, I sat on the kitchen floor and I cried like I had not cried in a long time. I was exhausted, I didn’t think I could do this anymore. But I asked myself, ‘Am I willing to give him up?’ The answer was no. I said to myself, ‘I will lose an arm before I let him go.’ As I was sitting there crying, Hector walks out to get a cup of water and saw me on the floor. He asked what was wrong and I was honest. I said, ‘I’m not sure I can be a good dad. It’s not your fault – you haven’t done anything wrong. I just don’t know how to be a good enough Dad for you.’ Hector placed his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t give up, you can do this. Don’t give up.’

Well, this was all it took. I’ve always believed the title of a father can easily be obtained by the match of DNA or by a legal signature. But the title of a Dad is earned, and it’s a title only a child can choose to give you. On October 3, 2019 at approximately 7:52 a.m. I earned that title as I was dropping Hector off at school. I heard the title of ‘Dad’ for the very first time. After pulling over and sobbing like a child in the parking lot for about 15 minutes, I knew that was the most valuable, most meaningful achievement of my entire life and there was no turning back. Hector and I were loved by many and we weren’t alone.

Courtesy of Ruben Ramos

After reaching an exhaustion point with so much work and treading along on my own for years, I knew I was reaching an unhealthy state. I had to choose one or the other; I could no longer sustain the amount of responsibilities with my job while meeting Hector’s needs and maintaining my own health. I knew I was not willing to walk away on Hector, so I had to do what was best for the both of us. My job had been one of my most meaningful achievements in life, but I could no longer do both. I needed to make a decision. I needed to be well in order for both of us to be well. I needed a job, but Hector needed me. So, I walked way from my career. Following that decision, I also experienced a breakup, as well as the loss of one of my dogs who’d become very ill and could no longer pull through.

Courtesy of Ruben Ramos

I finally found a job, but was lost shortly after due to the beginning of the pandemic. It was a tough time for us. But then came the news. After months of waiting, I finally got the call. On May of 2020, I was informed that I would be granted the authorization to file for permanent adoption of Hector. As I sat in my room with tears of joy, I called out to Hector. As he walked in the room I yelled, ‘I have some news to tell you! Guess what? This is it! This is it guy! I finally get to adopt you! We’re going to be a forever family!’ Hector ran towards me and jumped in my arms. He hugged me and squeezed me tight as he said, ‘I love you so much, I love you so, so much.’

Courtesy of Ruben Ramos

Things moved very quickly after that. The big celebration I’d hope for was no longer an option due to the pandemic. However, a virtual ceremony was indeed more appropriate. Throughout our journey, Hector and I were loved and supported by many, many people in different parts of the country. It literally took a village for us to succeed and now that village got to witness the moment they had cheered for. Within the chaos came the moment I had prepared for my entire life. On August 14, 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, Hector and I became a forever family.

Our immediate family was there to witness our special moment. They traveled to be with us in person. We cheered, cried, hugged and celebrated as they watched us cross the finish line together. It had been a long-awaited moment. This moment was once just a dream. We did it, we crossed that finish line together. We didn’t give up on each other.

Courtesy of Ruben Ramos
Courtesy of Ruben Ramos
Courtesy of Ruben Ramos

We are a couple of funny, crazy but resilient, strong-loving guys who came together at the right moment in life. Often, I am told how lucky Hector is to have me as his dad. While I see where their compliment comes from, I believe I am truly the lucky one to have him in my life. I didn’t choose him, I simply fell in love with him. He chose me. He chose to trust me, he allowed me to love him, and did so with every bit of vulnerability. In essence, he allowed me the opportunity to become a better human and the positive role model I aspired to be. There was no way I was going to fail him. I have fought along his side since day one. A child who once stood before me, scared and in silence, now stands, runs, jumps and sings with me.

Courtesy of Ruben Ramos

That same child has now made AB honor roll twice and wants to be a mechanical engineer when he grows up. He talks so much, I literally have to ask for conversation breaks. He talks back, teases me, and gets on every single one of my nerves, but I would not have it any other way. He is healthy, he is happy, he is cared for, he is loved. I came into this country as an illegal immigrant. I have been bullied and belittled for being born in Mexico, for not having expensive things and for being gay. I’ve been a punching bag to others, simply for being myself. I had every reason to not do this and to have chosen a different lifestyle, but I didn’t. I chose resiliency, I chose to not give up. I chose to be myself regardless of the battles. I rose from every challenge and continued my path in hopes of making a difference in someone’s life. The reward of those efforts is priceless. Genuine happiness is amazing. It was never about me. I wanted to stand for someone who couldn’t stand for themselves and I did so with courage, passion, and selflessness. Most of all, I did it with love.”

Courtesy of Ruben Ramos
Courtesy of Ruben Ramos

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ruben Ramos of Waco, Texas. You can follow his journey on Instagram. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more beautiful adoption stories:

‘Where’s their mom?’ She assumed I was kidnapping my son. She didn’t believe me when I said, ‘I’m Dad.’ The suffering of kids in foster care knows no color.’: Single foster, adoptive dad says ‘matching hearts make a family’

‘I don’t think any social worker will jump to place a child with a 20-year-old, single male.’ I agreed and said, ‘I’ll be patient.’ I checked all the boxes.’: Former foster kid becomes adoptive dad to 3 boys, ‘Fostering is love’

‘At 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital, never to return. ‘Mr. Peter, can I call you my Dad?’ I began to cry uncontrollably.’: Single dad adopts 11-year-old boy from foster care after biological, adoptive family abandon him

‘Oh my gosh, this blanket stinks!’ I was careful not to show the horror on my face. I fantasized about throwing it in the washing machine.’: Single dad explains candid reality of foster care, ‘Let go of perfectionist tendencies’

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