The face is angelic, the lighting soft and the subject is napping peacefully – just the way a newborn photo shoot should look. It took 13 years, but Latrell Higgins finally has his baby photos.
“Here's my sweet not so little newborn! His name is Latrell and weighs 112 lbs.,” his mom Kelli Higgins proudly announced on Facebook, where the boy’s simple wish created an online sensation.
Higgins and her husband adopted Latrell and his sister Chanya two years ago, welcoming the siblings to their home in Crestview, Fla. The family already had five biological children, with a sixth one on the way, but Higgins felt she had more love to give, especially to kids who would have a harder time finding a home because they were older. In the past decade, more older children have become available for adoption, experts say.
“These children, once they get past a certain age, they don’t find homes and they age out of foster care,” Higgins told TODAY.com.
“They have to figure out the world on their own and there’s no one to go back to as an adult. Where do you go for Christmas? It’s just horrible, it’s heartbreaking.”
Then one day, social services called: Latrell and Chanya, then 10 and 5, were looking for a family. “Let’s just go for it,” Higgins recalled her husband saying. A few days later, the kids moved in. The Higgins were the only ones to submit paperwork to adopt the pair, the family found out.
The siblings are growing up happily, but wounds from the past sometimes surface unexpectedly.
The family was sitting around the dinner table last month, when Higgins – a professional photographer – mentioned that she was preparing for an upcoming baby photo session. Latrell mentioned that he wished he had baby photos of himself.
Higgins’ 12-year-old daughter asked, why not “recreate” a newborn photo shoot just for Latrell? The family had a good laugh thinking about him in all the newborn poses.
“I thought it was funny and that it would be a good idea,” Latrell told TODAY.com. His mom found the notion bittersweet.
“I was very sad too because I didn’t have any photos of him either," Higgins said. "I think it’s really hard to have children and not know what they looked like when they were younger.”
Higgins and Latrell went into her studio the next day, both laughing hysterically the whole time, she recalled.
While some people have raised concerns that Latrell would be embarrassed by the photos, he told TODAY.com that he likes the results and that everyone he has showed the photos to thinks they are funny. Meanwhile, positive reaction is overflowing on Higgins’ Facebook page, where the photos have been shared thousands of times and prompted hundreds of comments of support.
"This is such a beautiful thing to do!" one person wrote. "I know so many people who adopted older children and don't have ANY pictures of their infancy. What a spectacular way to remedy that... after all, he'll always be your baby."
Higgins is particularly excited to start a conversation about adopting older kids.
“The one reaction that is really humbling and I’m really excited about is there have been a lot of parents that come to me telling me that they were thinking about adopting a baby, but after seeing those photos it’s changed their minds and they want to adopt an older child,” Higgins said.
There were more than 104,000 children in foster care who were waiting to be adopted in 2011, the last full year for which government statistics are available. The median age of a child waiting to find an adoptive home was 7, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Over the last decade, I’m seeing more older children available to be adopted and more people who are interested in adopting them,” said Gloria Hochman, a spokeswoman for the National Adoption Center.
People who adopt older kids tend to already have children and have experience dealing with pre-teens and teens, she said. There’s more help available now to families through post-adoption services, she added.
Back in Florida, Higgins said the lesson Latrell taught her is simple: We are never too old to want -- and deserve -- love, security and parents.