Nine-year-old girl dubbed as ‘real-life Matilda’ after getting adopted by her former teacher

Loralie Henry, 9, spent almost half her life in the foster care system—1,445 days, to be exact. And her adoption story has been likened to that of the fictional character, Matilda.

Loralie entered the system when she was 4 before briefly going back to her biological mom at 5. Then, she returned once again to foster care when she was 6.

Because of the pandemic, her time in the system was extended. And Loralie didn’t have fond memories of those times.

Loralie Henry on a swing
screenshot: ABC 7

“It was actually really scary, too. I didn’t know what to expect in other homes or what they would feed me,” she recalled. “I didn’t really know what to do. So I thought, ‘Well, what should I do? Is there anyone waiting for me?’ I was really scared.”

That’s until she met the person who adopted her—her second-grade teacher.

Zoe Henry of La Verne is a single mom and teacher who had no plans of adopting. But when she saw Loralie, that decision instantly changed.

Loralie Henry holding a black puppy
screenshot: ABC 7

“She came into my class, and I just took one look at her – her little freckles, her little birthmark,” Zoe said. “I am going to adopt this little girl. She’s my daughter. The minute I set eyes on her.”

Zoe thought Loralie would be adopted by another family. But when she found out that wasn’t going to happen, she begged the girl’s social workers to let her adopt. Thankfully, they did!

Two days later, Loralie was in Zoe’s home. The girl couldn’t be more thrilled that Zoe was her new mom.

Zoe Henry and Loralie Henry
screenshot: ABC 7

“I remember the moment when we were sitting by the car, she’s like, ‘You’re going to come with me.’ I was so surprised and happy. It was like an early present,” Loralie said.

That was two years ago when Loralie was a second-grader. Since then, many wonderful things have happened.

“She’s been in a lot of places, had a lot of obstacles to find her way here,” Zoe said. “But we’re very thankful for that journey, and it’s made her a brave and strong and just an amazing little girl. She is probably the most compassionate person I know.”

Zoe’s actions have inspired Loralie to do the same—to become a foster parent and adopt children in need of a parent who would love and care for them.

Zoe Henry and Loralie Henry raising their right hands during the virtual adoption ceremony
screenshot: ABC 7

“She wants to be a foster mom someday and adopt kids,” she said.

Loralie’s journey to adoption has been a long one, but it was worth the wait. On November 20, National Adoption Day, Loralie and 164 other kids were officially adopted by their families.

“She completes our family, she completes our life. She brings such adventure and joy and fun and spunkiness to everything that we do, so it’s perfect. It’s perfect,” Zoe told KABC.

The ceremony is typically held in person in a courtroom, but it was just as special even though it was done virtually.

Zoe Henry and Loralie Henry holding a homemade poster saying, "HAPPY gotcha DAY, Loralie!"
ABC 7

“Biological parents have the right to contest. That did not happen. I know her mom really loves her. I know she really wanted to be a better part of her life,” Zoe said. “But like I tell Loralie, her mom loved her so much that she would let her be adopted so that I can give her what she needed.”

Loralie’s adoption story reminded many people of Matilda, the main character in a novel of the same name written by Roald Dahl in 1988.

The book was made into a film in 1996, where Matilda—played by Mara Wilson—is a girl with magical powers whose parents don’t treat her well. She forms a special bond with her teacher, Miss Honey, who adopts her at the end of the movie.

Learn more about this mother-and-daughter duo’s touching adoption story in the video below by ABC7.

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