In a home video taken on Christmas morning 2022, 17-year-old Roman Balassaitis is trying hard not to cry as he opens his last Christmas gift. After being in 19 different homes since he entered the Florida foster care system at 11, Roman had just learned via an embroidered stocking that he was being adopted by Renee and Brad Balassaitis. Roman, a high school junior, officially became a Balassaitis on Oct. 17, joining siblings Tom, 28, Chrissy, 26, Austin, 22, Jared, 22, Sammy, 20, Halle, 18, and Tatiana, 17. Jared and Halle are Renee and Brad’s biological children. “Ever since adoption day, Roman has been walking lighter,” says Renee. The Balassaitises, devout Christians who began fostering in 2008, call older child adoption the “most rewarding” thing they have ever done. Of the seven children Brad and Renee adopted, the youngest was 7.

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