WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - Three South Mississippi siblings finally have a forever family.
After fostering the autistic children for more than two years, a Wiggins couple turned temporary into permanent with an adoption ceremony last week. The celebration is just beginning.
They've eaten together for years, but now, it feels much more like family time. "This has been 974 days in the waiting," new mother Sheila Havens said through tears.
That's how long the three siblings have been in foster care.
"We got these three children with the intent they would go back home," added father Jimmy Havens. "We were just kind of a foster home to keep them secure and safe place."
The Havenses decided two years ago to adopt the children. On April 4, the papers finally were signed. "We got to loving them and treating them like our own," Jimmy said. "They really started out calling us aunt and uncle. ... and then it turned into momma and daddy."
To Sheila, it would be a nightmare to wake up without them. "I couldn't imagine it because they have encompassed our life," Sheila said. "Not just mine, my family, my friends. If you see the people who have come out to support us. I mean, it's our village and they have helped us."
Those in their support system honored the new family and the importance of fostering and adoption. The couple, who has one other adopted son from years ago, went through Southern Christian Services out of Gulfport.
"It's the most important part of our mission," said Tana Walker, a licensed social worker with the organization. "Our whole goal is to get children and families that can provide a permanent forever home for them."
The children all have autism, but Hannah Rose, the oldest of the siblings at 15, said that's not something people should pity about her or anyone else with the disorder.
"They think they're incapable, they're disabled," she said. "But really, it's not that. I think people that have autism actually have special abilities that people who are not autistic can't achieve."
Hannah Rose intends to prove her point with big plan. "One, go to college, become a pediatric oncologist," she said. "Marry the perfect man. Have four children - two biological, two adopted. I got it all figured out."
It's all because of a gift from her new mother. She explained, "She helped me realize that I could learn to trust and that I was safe in this new environment and that I was loved," she said. "I'm on cloud 9 right now. This is the best day of my life."