If there is one thing Sara Cozad was not prepared for on the day she adopted her two sons, it was the heartfelt speech that came from her 13-year-old, Dayshawn.
Why? Because she was more concerned about how his 6-year-old brother, Michael, would behave in the courtroom, she told "Good Morning America."
But Cozad, her husband Stuart Shank and the rest of the family were moved to tears when Dayshawn spoke. The incredible speech was captured by Caleb O'Halloran of NW Creatives.
"They all love us," Dayshawn told the judge, speaking about himself and his brother, who was also adopted that day. "We love them. Our whole family is the best thing we ever had. I'm glad to have these people in my life. I'm glad to be their son. They're the best thing I ever had. If I could wish for anything in the world, I would wish I could just love these people for the rest of my life."
The brothers' adoption became official on Aug. 13, 2018, and it was celebrated with a limo ride, doughnuts and a party for family and friends. Photographer Krista Welch captured the images.
Michael came to their home first, Cozad told "GMA." The couple met Dayshawn during a supervised sibling visit. "We fell in love with Dayshawn the second he opened his mouth," she said.
While Michael is more reserved, Dayshawn is outgoing and, as his mom called him, a "ham."
"He defies every stereotype of a teenage boy," she said.
"No child should feel grateful to have a family love them," she said. "It should be a given."
But Dayswhawn's expression of love in the courtroom made an incredible day even more so, she said.
Cozad and Shank were not new to fostering when they took the brothers in. Over the course of just a few years, they've had 14 children stay with them. Cozad told Shank of her plans to become a foster parent "10 minutes into their first date."
"I was impressed with how he rolled with it," she said. "I never felt compelled to have biological children, and it just made sense if kids in our community need a place to stay and we have a house, that is what we would do."
The couple says they are "big supporters" of reunification, or reconnecting foster children back to their families, Cozad said. And for the majority of the children they have fostered, that's the direction things went. "That was not possible for Dayshawn and Michael," she said.
She called the relationships they've formed with the birth families of the kids they've fostered "a privilege."
"We walk hand-in-hand with them," she told "GMA." "When we go to court, I'm sitting next to their moms and supporting them. You get to play this small role in raising kids and being a support for a family when they need it."
"You don't know what path they've walked to get to this point," she said. "You need to have empathy and compassion."
Cozad was only 23 when Dayshawn, then 10, came to their home. Through parenting coaches, online resources, other foster parents and conferences, the couple found the support they needed to successfully parent an older child. Now, they are specializing in fostering hard-to-place and at-risk teens. They have a 14-year-old with them now and are in training to take in victims of sex-trafficking.
Cozad said the couple uses Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) with the kids they take in. She called it a" parenting style for parenting kids who have been through trauma."
If you have a kid who has been through trauma, she said, "you become a person they can attach to before you fix the behaviors. You have to attach with the child before they can heal."
For Sara, Stuart, Dayshawn and Micheal, "everything has changed and nothing has changed" since adoption day, Cozad said. They had been living as a family, but now it's official. She said that now she is free to parent a bit more freely.
"Sometimes people say we are incredible people," Cozad said. "That's not true. It's just showing up and trying to do your best. We meet incredible kids and families and it's a great privilege to care for kids in our community."