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Falling in love with our kids

The Smith family
“To say ‘I love you’ and have them reciprocate still makes us cry.”

Early in their relationship, Robin and Kelly Smith knew that they wanted to adopt kids. “We wanted to give back,” Kelly explains. After the couple married, they considered an international adoption, but soon realized that many kids in the US needed permanent, loving homes.

Robin and Kelly were originally interested in adopting younger school-age kids, and began to do research, including visiting the AdoptUSKids website. In 2012, after two years of searching and completion of the foster parenting approval process, the couple spotted a profile of a 16-year-old sister and 14-year-old brother. The write-up immediately reminded the Smiths of themselves as teenagers.

Within a month, the Smiths met Samantha (Sam) and Damian over burgers. “They were open, aware and honest from the start,” Robin remembers. “We connected immediately. During that first meeting, they asked if they could call us Mom and Dad.”

Samantha and Damian moved in shortly after, and their adoption was legalized in 2013, within six months. “Sometimes it seems like they’ve been with us forever, and it also seems fast,” Robin says.

Adventures together

Robin and Kelly enjoy travel, adventure and Austin’s music scene, and their kids jumped right in to join them. “They don’t slow us down at all. Being teenagers, they push us to keep going,” Robin says.

His first snowboard trip—and first experience with snow—is one of Damian’s favorite memories. “I loved all the wind, the cold, and going fast down the mountain,” he says. The trip became one of many snowboarding adventures for the family.

Closer to home, Sam and Damian have joined their parents as volunteers at the Old Settler’s Music Festival, an annual Austin bluegrass festival. Damian helps the musicians, cheerfully hauling their gear on and off stage. Sam, a natural extrovert, assists in the green room.

“There have been lots of firsts with the kids—first trip to the beach, first time bowling, and first time leaving the state of Texas,” Robin says. “But the big milestones remind us why we wanted to adopt.”

School challenges

For both kids, school provided challenges. Damian and Samantha moved in with the Smiths the last Friday in August, with school starting the following Monday.

Samantha was two years behind schedule in high school. Damian, who is dyslexic, struggled with reading. As new parents, Robin and Kelly worked quickly to build a support system, including tutors and close communication with teachers. “One of the most important things adoptive parents can do is to help their kids learn in school, even if they don’t like it at first,” Damian says.

The biggest milestone

Today, Samantha has graduated from high school, attended vocational school, and is pursuing a future career as a corrections officer working with youth. Although she’s living on her own as a young adult, she always has a place to call home and remains close with Robin and Kelly.

With help from a reading tutor, Damian is a confident reader now, and praised by teachers for his positive attitude. He enjoys art and math, and is considering a career as a video game designer or illustrator. In his spare time, he skateboards and works with Kelly on his dream car: a 1972 Dodge Charger.

“There have been many milestones, but the biggest milestone to meet, by far, was falling in love with our kids,” Kelly says. “To say ‘I love you’ and have them reciprocate still makes us cry. There’s nothing more important or rewarding than helping out someone who could use a hand, for everyone involved.”