13-year-old Tony Mutabazi never knew who his birth parents were. He had been under the foster care system since the age of 2, and when he turned 4, a couple from Oklahoma adopted him. A few years later, however, his foster parents did the unthinkable – they left him at a hospital and never returned.
Tony asked foster care worker Jessica Ward if his parents were coming to get him, but they said no. None of them knew what prompted the couple’s sudden decision to leave the then 11-year-old boy. Thankfully, Tony wasn’t left alone for long.
On January 16, 2018, Jessica called Peter Mutabazi to see if he could let Tony stay with him for the weekend. Peter has been a foster parent for three years, and he agreed to take in the boy for two days. However, his plans changed when he learned of Tony’s heartbreaking story.
“By that time, I was crying. I thought, ‘Who would do that?’” he told Good Morning America. “Once I knew the parents’ rights were signed off and he had nowhere to go, I [knew] I had to take him.”
Peter described Tony as the “nicest, smartest kid” he’s ever had. Since the first day, the boy has called him ‘dad,’ and that endeared him more to Peter. It made him feel that Tony genuinely looked up to him. He also loved showing him off when they’re in school; Tony would go and tell everyone that Peter is his dad.
The duo has been together ever since Tony’s supposed-to-be two-day stay. And on November 12, 2019, the day they’ve been waiting for finally came – Peter became Tony’s legal father.
The foster dad’s family and friends gathered in a Charlotte courthouse to witness the adoption. Photographer Cole Trotter was there to capture the special moment, so the father and son could look back on their photos and remember this joyous day.
Peter understood the plight of foster children because he had a troubled childhood himself. He spent his growing up years in Uganda and lived in an abusive home. At 10 years old, he ran away from home and found a parent figure who became his guardian.
“They became my sponsor, my family. I grew up the poor of the poorest people on the planet,” Peter recalled. “I grew up where no one told me to dream, that there was no future for me.”
He eventually settled in the United States and became a citizen. Peter works with World Vision United States, a nonprofit organization that helps children living in vulnerable areas. He has fostered 12 kids, but when he met Tony, he knew that he wanted to be his legal father.
“I had the room, the resources, so I had no reason to let him go,” he said of his decision. “For what someone did for me, I wanted to do something for someone else.”
The father and son enjoy doing lots of fun activities together, such as watching movies, playing board games, reading books, and bicycling. Soon, they will become a family of three as they are expecting to welcome a new foster child in their home.
For two years, Peter has been the best father to Tony, and he will undoubtedly continue to be so now that he is officially his dad!