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November 28, 2020

Judge finalizes adoption for transgender teen

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(Luka Sousae-Furnal (second from right) was present in family court in Watsonville Friday with their new parents, Rebekah Sousae (second from left) and Nick Furnal during an adoption ceremony with judge Rebecca Connelly (left). Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

WATSONVILLE — After an attempt to settle with one adoptive family fell through, and after shuffling through several foster families, Luka Sousae-Furnal has finally found a home.

A Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge on Friday signed the papers that gave Luka a family, and permanent home.

“It was a long time coming, being adopted,” said Luka, 17.

Luka is a non-binary, a term used by people who don’t identify exclusively as a man or exclusively as a woman. As such, they prefer neutral pronouns such as their, them and they.

Luka was 9 when their parents divorced. They then spent years bouncing between their mother’s and father’s homes in California and Washington.

Eventually, fights with their mother landed Luka in foster care.

An adoption with another family fell through after Luka realized the family was transphobic.

Soon thereafter, they got a seven-day notice to move out.

“I was crushed,” Luka said. “I was devastated.”

While infants and young children are frequently adopted, placements for older teens can be challenging, according to Santa Cruz County Resource Family Approval Supervisor Trevor Davis.

According to Davis, there are currently 76 teenagers in the foster care system, many of whom are minorities and LGBTQ. 

After placements in several temporary foster homes, Luka met with Nick and Rebekah Sousae at a coffee shop.

“That was a weird blind date,” Rebekah Sousae said.

Luka agreed.

“It’s not every day you get to meet your family before they become your family,” they said.

That was one year ago, and Luka has been living there since, she said.

Luka said they came to the meeting with a list of questions such as “how would you treat me?” and “Could I dye my hair?”

Luka said their prospective parents’ answers went above and beyond expectations.

“I met Nick and Rebekah and I was like, yeah!” Luka said.

That process began two years ago when the couple adopted a baby girl, and learned of a trans boy who needed a home, Rebekah Sousae said.

Luka wanted the ceremony to transcend the somber shirt-and-tie formality of similar events, and asked attendees to wear costumes.

“We wanted to make a memory,” Sousae said. “I think this is something people will talk about for a long time.”


For information on becoming a foster parent or adopting youth from the foster care system, call the Foster Care Recruitment Hotline at 345-2700.


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