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Saying “yes” to Carlo

Angie and Chris Hatla pose with thier adult children and adopted son, Carlo.
“Carlo is on his way to becoming a great man. It’s an absolute privilege to be part of his life.”

Like many couples, Angie and Chris Hatla talked about adopting from foster care for several years before contacting an agency. At the time, their youngest daughter was entering her senior year of high school, and they were not ready to be empty nesters.

“Over time, our thoughts about adoption had evolved. And they continued to evolve as we worked with an agency. By the time we’d completed our home study, we knew that we wanted to adopt a teen because we’d learned that there is a great need,” Angie said.

Search leads to hope, disappointment, then hope again!

After they were licensed to adopt, Angie and Chris started searching the Texas Heart Gallery. The profile of a 13-year-old boy, Carlo, captured their attention.

Chris and Angie's adopted son, Carlo.

“He was a beautiful child. And he had a mischievous smile! I could just see that he had fire in him—that he was a strong and determined boy who was not going to let people ignore him. Those characteristics really drew me to him,” Angie said.

But when Angie and Chris inquired about Carlo, they learned that he had been placed with another adoptive family. Disappointed, they moved on.

One year later, his worker called saying that Carlo might have to move, and they were looking for a short-term respite placement. Were Angie and Chris interested in being that placement? Yes, indeed!

Before Carlo came for the weekend, his worker asked Angie if they would be interested in pursuing a pre-adoptive placement. Again, the answer was a resounding yes!

“When we said yes to Carlo, we were 100 percent determined that if we brought him into our home, we would make it work,” Angie said. “Our children were out of the house, and we knew from two years of fostering that we could handle the inevitable challenges.”

About a month after that weekend visit, Carlo was placed with Angie and Chris. In the beginning, he was shy. And, Angie says, he tested them to see how they would react to temper tantrums and outbursts. But ultimately, their determination paid off.

“We held on through the rough patches—like riding a bucking bull!” Angie said. “Because we were committed. And from the beginning, I could tell that he wanted to make a connection. He still had that hope of family. And before too long, he settled in.”

Expanding their world in unexpected ways

Angie and Chris were prepared to be tested and ready to seek out resources to help their family succeed. But one thing caught them off guard: the racism that becoming a transracial family revealed to them.

“We were extremely naive when we started fostering Black and biracial boys. As a White woman, I thought that racism was rare these days. When we experienced it with Carlo, we were unprepared to deal with it,” Angie said.

Once they became aware, Angie and Chris took action. They moved to a predominantly Black church, actively learned about African American culture, and grew their social circle to include people who share Carlo’s ethnicity.

“Expanding our world was one of the best things we could have done for Carlo, and for ourselves. He absolutely loves being around people who look like him, especially men who look like him. And we are learning about a whole beautiful part of our son’s heritage we knew nothing about,” Angie said.

Angie and Chris adopted Carlo in November 2016. Since then, Angie says life just keeps getting better—calmer, and less stressful. Carlo has gotten into a steady routine, and she’s been able to go back to work part-time.

“We’re watching our son mature—and seeing him leave the negative behaviors that he used to cling to—because that was all he knew—behind. Carlo is loved, safe, and a bit spoiled! He is on his way to becoming a great man. It’s an absolute privilege to be part of his life.”