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He was about to turn 18. His former foster family adopted him ‘in the nick of time’

“All Roman has ever wanted was to find his forever family.”
/ Source: TODAY

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.

“Can I have a tissue?” Roman asks. His voice is jokey — he’s determined not to break down — but his hands are visibly shaking.

After entering the Florida foster care system at age 11, and bouncing to 19 different homes, Roman has just learned via an embroidered stocking that he’s being adopted by Renee and Brad Balassaitis.

“We were all sobbing,” Renee, 47, tells “All Roman has ever wanted was to find his forever family.”

Roman Balassaitis posed with his siblings Tatiana, Halle and Austin on adoption day.
Roman Balassaitis posed with his siblings Tatiana, Halle and Austin on adoption day.Courtesy Brad and Renee Balassaitis

Roman officially became a Balassaitis on Oct. 17, just one day shy of his 18th birthday or as Brad puts it, “in the nick of time.”

 “I was sweating bad. My heart was beating. I was very happy,” Roman told First Coast News. "It means I have someone to go to. It means if I need someone to talk to, I have people to talk to now.”

According to Florida adoption attorney Jeanne T. Tate, the “clock is ticking” for orphaned teenagers like Roman.

“We see very grim statistics about children who age out of the system at 18,” Tate tells “If you look at our prison population, more than 60 percent of them have been in foster care.”

Tate notes that there are a “few programs” to bridge the gap between 18 and 21, but they are geared towards individuals who who attend college. Research has shown that roughly 3% of former foster youth obtain a four-year degree. 

“Kids like Roman have experienced a lot of trauma and instability, and not being adopted is the final nail in the coffin,” Tate explains. “There’s no where for them to go, so they end up in prison or on the streets. They turn 18 and it’s like, ‘Good luck.’”

“Renee and I grew up in stable homes and we still wouldn’t have been ready to be completely on our own with no emotional support at 18 years old," Brad says. “How can we expect kids with trauma to do it?”

Roman with his parents Renee and Brad.
Roman with his parents Renee and Brad.Courtesy Brad and Renee Balassaitis

Roman, a high school junior, joined siblings Tom, 28, Chrissy, 26, Austin, 22, Jared, 22, Sammy, 20, Halle, 18, and Tatiana, 17. Brad and Renee’s daughter Rosie passed away in 2022.

Jared and Halle are Renee and Brad’s biological children. The couple, who are devout Christians, say they felt called by God to become adoptive and foster parents.

“Ever since adoption day, Roman has been walking lighter,” Renee reveals. “It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off his shoulders and you can see it in the way he moves. He's incredibly relieved."

"And so are we," she adds.

Roman first came into the Balassaitises lives when he was 12. 

“We fostered him for about nine months, but he wasn’t ready to be part of a family,” Brad says. “He was driven by a fear of abandonment. Ironically, he turned around and acted in ways that pushed people away."

To protect Roman’s privacy, Brad declines to elaborate. 

“We were heartbroken when he left,” Renee says. “All of us felt this special connection with Roman. I felt like I lost my future son.”

Roman learned he was being adopted on Christmas morning 2022.
Roman learned he was being adopted on Christmas morning 2022.Courtesy Brad and Renee Balassaitis

He found his way back to them. Years later, Roman reached out to the Balassaitis' daughter Halle on social media. When Renee and Brad heard Roman was back in touch, they invited him over for dinner.

“And the rest is history,” Brad says, with a laugh. 

The Balassaitises don’t sugarcoat older child adoption, but they call it the “most rewarding” thing they have ever done. Of the seven children Brad and Renee adopted, the youngest was 7.

Schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, oppositional defiance disorder — the Balassaitises have seen it all since they first started fostering in 2008.

Roman faces academic and mental health challenges. 

“He’s way behind in school. Reading is very difficult for him,” Renee says. “He also has a hard time expressing his feelings, but that’s to be expected. He always had to live with his guard up.”

Renee says Roman is making up for his lost childhood and that it's beautiful to watch.

“He’ll play Chutes and Ladders or get excited when he sees a swing set,” she says. “He’s getting these moments that he didn’t get when he was younger.”