FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — John Rogers was sitting in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s United terminal, his connection from Thailand stalled for 13 hours by Hurricane Sandy, when he discovered Josiah Saunders.
The 13-year-old boy’s face appeared on his iPad, his biography written on heartgallerynm.org, a website devoted to finding homes for children considered “hard to place.”
According to his biography, Josiah liked being outside. He enjoyed playing video games. He was interested in electronics, like iPods and computers. Everything listed on Josiah’s biography, Rogers also liked.
Rogers was 40 then. He was already licensed to foster and adopt. And in his life, he said, there was a void.
He placed an inquiry about Josiah while waiting in the terminal. Within a week, he met with Josiah’s caseworkers and then met Josiah in February. The boy moved in with Rogers one month after.
“You never told me that,” said Josiah, rocking back in his black computer chair across from Rogers, who was sitting on the bed telling the story. “Thanks to Hurricane Sandy you got me. I guess natural disasters can’t always be that bad.”
Josiah sat in his bedroom one afternoon with Rogers, now legally his father, as the adoption party wound down outside in their Farmington living room. Josiah is now 14. And his last name is Rogers. Hours before the party, Judge Sandra Price confirmed the adoption in the Farmington District Court.
It has been hard, Josiah said, moving from foster home to foster home. But now he is settled. He has a dad.
“The wait’s finally over,” he said.
Before Rogers, Josiah had lived with his biological mother. But she started drinking and “stuff,” he said.
So he left his mother when he was 10, and in the next four years he swept through 13 foster homes in Ruidoso, Alamogordo and Las Cruces. Eventually, after a temporary stop with his aunt, Josiah moved to Texas. But, as he did so often in those years he was estranged from family, Josiah returned to foster care in New Mexico.
“It was kind of strange and different,” Josiah said. “I wasn’t used to being in so many houses. It wasn’t fun for me. … I had to meet a new person and then leave that person. It was really weird.”
When Josiah returned to New Mexico, another foster family took his younger brother. Now he was alone. His brother — who was only 3 — needed him, he said. Josiah got frustrated and angry.
So he ran away from foster homes, he said, and he was rude and stubborn.
Families told him that it was all right, that they wouldn’t get rid of him, he said. They told him they’d stay together and they could work it out. But then, days later officials from the state Children, Youth and Families Department would come for him.
Now has Rogers.
“Josiah’s giving John a run for his money, but John has just stayed with it,” said Floy Ranne.
Ranne had walked into the room and was leaning against the bedroom wall. She has known Josiah since he was born. Although he is not her blood relative, she is his Nana, and he is her grandson.
The source of Josiah’s bad behavior was beyond his control, she said. Josiah has so much potential, she said, but he had no father to guide him.
Rogers, though, is a godsend, she said.
Josiah is now learning to be respectful, to share, to be kind. All the qualities he missed without a constant father, he is learning with Rogers.
“It takes a good man,” she said, “to teach a little kid to be a good man.”
For her, Rogers is a prayer answered.
“I’m claiming him as my son,” she said, looking across the foot of the bed at Rogers. “I not only got a grandchild, but I got a son.”
The adoption created their three-person family, she said. Rogers even drove the nearly 12-hour round trip from Farmington to Ruidoso so Ranne could attend the party.
Josiah seems happy, too. Rogers is nice to him unlike anyone has ever been, and they have lots in common. They just bought a PlayStation 4 and games.
Next spring, Rogers plans to return to Thailand, where his sister and mother’s side of the family live. This time, though, he will return as a father.
“I guess every fairy tale has a happy ending,” said Josiah, looking at his father.
“Happy beginning,” Rogers said.