Four years in the making, this year will mark the first Father’s Day that Brad Cockrell will spend with his two newest children, Thaina and Phawensky, after adopting them from Haiti.
“It’s a blessing, there’s no doubt,” Cockrell said in an interview Thursday at Southmont Baptist Church. “It’s going to be a neat Father’s Day that will be unlike any other, having them here with us for the first time.”
The senior pastor at Southmont, Cockrell went on a mission trip to Haiti in 2014 with two of his three sons. There, he met Thaina, who was 12 at the time, and Phawensky, who was 9. Cockrell had been on mission trips to Haiti before and, when coming back, always told his wife, Cari, that they should adopt some Haitian children, in what he calls “a nice thought.”
“We never, I don’t think, seriously considered it,” Brad said. “And it was not until I met them that I just felt a real conviction that God was saying, ‘Yes. You need to do this, and these are the two that you need to adopt.’”
Once they started the adoption process, one of the learning curves they faced was gathering the paperwork, which took “probably 10 or 11 months,” Cari Cockrell said.
“You had to gather so many documents and have things notarized and state certified, and you had to know when the notary expired and there’s so many things,” she said. “Just gathering so much information to send and submit, I mean, it was like a novel that we sent for our dossier.”
For Brad Cockrell, perseverance was a big learning curve.
“There were multiple times when we just thought, ‘Is this ever going to happen?’” he said. “We talked about that, where they got to a point where they questioned if the reality was ever going to come about.”
And the reality did come about. The Cockrells finalized the adoption last October and on what they call their “Gotcha Day,” Thaina and Phawensky, now 17 and 14, came home with them on March 6.
When asked what the “Gotcha Day” was like, Phawensky said it was cold, and Thaina said it was amazing, while Brad Cockrell described it as “incredibly exciting.”
“It was just four years of all of this coming together finally, and so it was a big exciting day,” Cockrell said.
Only Brad Cockrell went to Haiti to get the kids, so a lot of their family and friends met them at the airport when they arrived in Texas.
“I was surprised,” Phawensky said. “I didn’t think there would be so [many] people.”
Now with a little under four months of living in the United States, Brad Cockrell said food is one of the biggest transitions for Thaina and Phawensky.
“So, food here tastes a lot different than Haiti and is just made a lot different than Haiti, so they’ve tried to make adjustments on what they will eat,” he said. “But we have discovered Chipotle, and that is now their new favorite. That’s the closest thing to Haiti we have found to this point, so they are very much Chipotle fans.”
While the family will be out of town at a church camp on the actual date of Father’s Day, Brad Cockrell said he’ll leave any celebration plans for when they get back up to Thaina and Phawenskey, to which Phawensky quickly whispered, “Chipotle!”
“Chipotle!” Thaina said, laughing. “Yeah, let’s go to Chipotle together.”
Another family in Denton, the Fergusons — CJ and his wife, Alex — finalized the adoption of 6-year-old Felista in August 2016.
CJ Ferguson, 29, said that while he does not distinctly remember that first Father’s Day, he is sure it was sweet.
“Her mom is always very sweet on Father’s Day, and Felista was great on Father’s Day, too,” he said. “I don’t remember, but it was probably great. It’s [Father’s Day] always something I’m like, ‘Bah, humbug,’ and then it comes, and I’m like, ‘Aw, cool, this is great.’”
The Fergusons always knew they wanted to adopt children, so as soon as CJ got a job, they began the process and, through researching the various avenues of adoption, decided on international adoption.
It was while going through the international adoption process that they heard about Felista, who, while born in Malawi, was currently living in the U.S. and in need of a family.
“They called us just out of the blue,” Alex Ferguson, 31, said. “We thought we had at least another year of waiting, and [they] said, ‘There’s this little girl — want you be thinking about it,’ and so we did. Sort of a lot of things happened in between them, but two weeks later she was in our house.”
Once Felista joined the Fergusons, they went from a childless couple to parents of a 3-year-old basically overnight.
“None of our friends had kids, so that was awful,” CJ said. “Because you go from hanging out with people who are the same as you, who are your peers, and then all of a sudden you’re not on the same page anymore.”
While the transition was difficult for both Felista and the Fergusons, the family was told that three weeks, six weeks and six months were typically turning points in the adoption process.
“It was shockingly accurate,” Alex said. “So after about three weeks, we were like, ‘OK, we have this kind of schedule going.’ After six weeks, it felt a little better, and then after six months, we really started to feel like a family unit. And I think she really started to feel the permanency of it and trust the permanency of it.”
CJ said the transition to becoming parents is harder and better.
“Before we were just like coasting along on low hills, so your peaks were low, your valleys were low, everything is just kind of the same,” he said. “And now we have high highs; sometimes we have low lows, but it’s better.”
Now after a little under three years with Felista, the Fergusons are expecting a baby boy and preparing for the arrival of their second adopted child, 4-year-old Emmanuel, from Ghana.
“It’s looking like they will be coming home very shortly after each other,” said Alex, who is due in five weeks. “So, you know, [we’re] just gonna ride that crazy wave.”