In a chance meeting at her church two years ago, Michelle Christensen handed a pregnant woman her business card, telling the distraught woman that if she’d ever need a friend to give her a call.
She didn’t think about the woman much again.
Months later, Christensen got a call from a Hennepin County social worker asking if she could care for the woman’s 1-day-old boy. The county had taken the infant from the woman, who gave the county Christensen’s phone number.
After countless meetings and reams of paperwork, the now 2-year-old boy legally became Christensen’s son earlier this month. And on Thursday, the toddler will share his first Thanksgiving as Kameron Christensen with his new family.
"This really is a little miracle," she said. "Our list this year of gratitude to the people that we're thankful for, the resources that we're thankful for is just so much bigger than it's been in the past because it really, really has taken a lot of people and a lot of resources to get us to the point that we're at."
‘We knew at that moment’
Christensen’s family was one of the 14 in Hennepin County that finalized adoptions for 22 children on National Adoption Day earlier this month. Before then, Kameron was one of the 905 foster care children awaiting adoption in the state.
The Hennepin County Juvenile Justice Center in Minneapolis was full of excitement and joy Saturday morning with all the families waiting for their final hearings to officially become their adoptive children’s parents.
Christensen and her friends and family from Utah walked into the courtroom where her case was going to be heard. They shared hugs and warm words, celebrating the new family being created.
To get to that moment wasn’t an easy path, Christensen said. The day they decided to bring Kameron into her home from the hospital two years ago, she and her teenage son, Rowen, weren’t so sure what the baby and the family’s future might be.
"At that point in time, we just figured it was an emergency situation, that we were only going to have him maybe for a few weeks or two months," Christensen said. "I never dreamed that would turn into adoption."
Rowen, now 16, vividly remembers the first time he met Kameron. Rowen had friends over when his mom came home and asked if he wanted to go see the baby, who was still in the hospital.
"I said, ‘Heck no,’ because I'm just not ready for that," he said. "But then [my friends] said, ‘Rowen, you have to do it.’"
That peer pressure convinced him.
Coming home that night, they decided to go back the next day. And the next day, they determined they would bring the baby boy home.
"When Rowen tickled his foot, he opened his eyes and he started giggling. And this giggling, it didn’t stop, and cooing and looking at us and looking at Rowen and looking at me, which is so unusual for a newborn, let alone six weeks premature," Christensen said. "We just knew at that moment."
‘My heart is really full’
During the two-year journey with Kameron, Christensen said her family has had immeasurable help from friends, family and the community. Christensen was 44 when she brought the newborn home in her arms. She worked a full-time job and did not have baby supplies ready.
Her status as a foster parent then didn’t automatically qualify for a paid leave or daycare at her work.
"How am I going to go back to work? I don't have the kind of benefits that someone who has delivered a child has," she said "He was 6 weeks old. So, there was a month's time where a dear friend stepped up and said, ‘We would love to watch him every day free of charge just to help.’"
Those helping hands were not only coming from people she knew. As soon as she posted on Facebook that she was bringing a baby home, people showed up, with baby supplies and toys to donate.
"Within about six to eight hours, I had everything I needed — all donated by just kind people in the area," she said.
Christensen still finds it difficult to fully express her gratitude.
"My heart is really full because of that, and [there is] just so much joy this time of year for us because of this opportunity that we've had," she said.
It’s the words she heard the judge say to her inside the courtroom, though, that she won’t forget:
"You wish to raise Kameron as your own child?" Judge David Piper asked her.
"Yes," she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
"Congratulations, I’m approving the adoption," the judge declared.
The room enthusiastically applauded the family’s new beginning.