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'Yay, you're part of our family!': Adoption unites brothers

Lisbon — The Berek family sat on the couch Friday morning in their Lisbon home and applauded at the end of a virtual adoption hearing when 12-year-old Antario's adoption became official.

"Yay, you're adopted!" mother Gloria Berek said.

"Yay, you're part of our family!" father Robert Berek said.

The couple, who had adopted a boy named Ben after they got married in their early 40s, said they loved him from the first minute they saw him as a "cute little baby." On Friday, they adopted the now 15-year-old's little brother, Antario.

The family joined in a group hug to celebrate.

"We're very, very happy," Gloria said. "We're beyond words to say how happy we are to have them in our home."

Robert said he, himself, was adopted as a baby, and one of their heart's desires was to open up their home to children and become parents and see their children grow up.

The family has always been very close and does activities together, such as traveling and going on a Christmas cruise, Gloria said.

The couple had received a letter in October 2020 that Ben's brother needed a forever home. They decided very quickly to welcome Antario, who came from foster care, and "we would be there for him and do everything we could to help him be together with his brother and be part of our family and to be a Berek," Gloria said.

"We tell them that they're meant to be together because they're brothers," she added.

Ben initially was surprised to learn he had a brother, she said. Like his parents, Ben wanted Antario to come to the home and did a lot of work to get his little brother's room ready for his arrival, painting the walls, carrying a mattress upstairs and making up his bed, and he kept saying "when Antario comes here ..."

The family welcomed Antario on Dec. 31, 2020. Robert said that initially it was an adjustment and for the first two months, Antario had to get to know them and they had to get to know him, but they have now grown together.

"They're both good boys and in one year's time they have definitely grown together as brothers — and where one goes, one is surely to follow," he said.

The brothers found they had a lot in common and have been playing sports and video games together and went to 4-H Camp. Ben, who plays football at Norwich Free Academy, teaches his little brother about football and they pass the ball out in the yard, ride bikes and go bowling together.

"It's been fun," Ben said.

Ben has taken Antario under his wing and shown him what normal teenage kids do, their father said.

Antario had to get used to a new school system, new teachers, new peers, a new bus route and being in a more rural setting, his parents said. He is doing well in school, made friends and got on the cross country team at Lisbon Central School. He is looking forward to playing football, like his brother, when he gets older.

The virtual hearing on Friday was the end of Antario's journey to adoption, and the family said they have accomplished this together and are continuing on their journey.

"The biggest part is he’s home," Robert said. "This is his home."

More than 50 adoptions took place in the state on Friday for Connecticut Adoption Day, said state Department of Children and Families Communications Director Gary Kleeblatt. The event is part of observances of National Adoption Day, which is Saturday, to "finalize and celebrate adoptions from foster care" ahead of Thanksgiving. Overall, there have been more than 400 adoptions out of foster care this year in the state.

Robert said having been adopted himself, he realizes the importance of opening up one's home "to give kids a chance in life and to let them know that they're wanted, they're loved and they're cared for, and in this home love is shown but it also is found."

Antario said he was happy he was being adopted.

"We’re happy to have them," Robert said. "We’re happy that the brothers are united."

"We’re happy that they're together," Gloria added. "We’re happy that they're here with us."

k.drelich@theday.com

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