Carvalho-Santoro Family
Carvalho-Santoro Family

It’s no secret that we’ve all had to reimagine parts of our lives in one way or another this year, and doing so has meant something different for everyone.

For Corey, it meant reimagining what he originally thought life would look like for him after foster care as an 18-year-old.

Over the years, Corey had come close to adoption several times, but because he was a teenager, it was tough to find a permanent match. So, when he was about 16, his team decided that the best thing to do would be to prepare him for life as he aged out of foster care. However, all of that changed when he met Steve Carvalho and Stephen Santoro at the 2019 Western Massachusetts Teen Meet and Greet in Holyoke.

“We knew from the get-go that we were looking to adopt a teen,” Stephen explained.

“Serendipitously, Corey was the first kid that we spoke to that day,” Steve said. “I can still say that I remember where he sat and what he wore.”

Steve and Stephen inquired about Corey after meeting him, though they were unable to formally move forward because they had not yet completed their MAPP training. However, once they were licensed to adopt, they decided to attend another MARE event: the 2019 Westfield Boys and Girls Club Meet and Greet.

“This event was for five- to 12-year-olds, but our worker told us there might be some teens there,” Steve said. The couple asked their social worker if there was a chance that Corey would be attending the event in hopes of meeting him a second time.

Corey agreed to attend the event, and he ended up being the only child Steve and Stephen spoke to that day.

“From there, we started visiting him on weekends, and he came to us forever in December of 2019,” Steve said. “He had just celebrated his 17th birthday a few months prior.”

Corey had previously expressed to his adolescent social worker Sean that he thought there was about a five percent chance that he would get adopted before he turned 18. So, when he was matched with Steve and Stephen, it became their goal as a family to finalize Corey’s adoption before his birthday.

“We normally go with the flow,” Steve explained, “but in this case, we said, ‘Listen. The one thing that’s important to him is being adopted before the age of 18.’ DCF understood that there was a kid on the other end of this, and we needed to make this happen.”

Between COVID-19 and the challenges that came with remote work, there were some speedbumps along the way, but Corey’s adoption was finalized three days before he turned 18 in September of 2020.

Sean explained that if the event in Holyoke hadn’t happened, the family never would have met.

“I can’t think of a better way to have families meet some of these kids,” Sean said. “It’s what started all of this for Corey, and if this adoption hadn’t worked out, he really would have been out on his own.”

In a year that has required lots of reimagining, MARE exists to reimagine what's possible for kids in foster care so that they can find the permanency they deserve.