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Comet Couple Finds Happiness Helping Others

Dr. Stacey Boland BS’00 and Dr. Justin Boland BS’00 (pictured with their son)

Joe BS’07, MS’08 and Debbie Sustaita BS’01 adopted their son, Kaiden, in October 2017 after serving as foster parents.

Joe Sustaita BS’07, MS’08 and Debbie Sustaita BS’01 met at UT Dallas in 2003, first connecting on campus through their involvement in FOCUS (Fellowship of Christian University Students).

Joe was an undergraduate studying accounting and Debbie, though recently graduated, continued to volunteer with the student organization. The two remained acquaintances for several years — until mutual friends separately suggested to Joe and Debbie that they should go on a date. By the time Joe began his graduate work at UT Dallas in 2007, they were officially a couple.

Through a shared commitment to service and ministry, Joe and Debbie began volunteering their time with another student organization at UT Dallas, the International Christian Fellowship. Reflecting on their own enriching experiences with international classmates, the couple sought to help current students acclimate to life in the United States and to ease the transition that would make UT Dallas a new home away from home.

“We have so many happy memories from our time at UT Dallas,” Joe said. “We wanted to help others fully enjoy their time at the University as well.”

Becoming Foster Parents

After marrying in 2009, the couple turned their attention to welcoming others into their own home in 2016. Initially unsure about whether to foster or adopt, the Sustaitas decided to try a “fostering-to-adopt” route, which would provide the couple with dual licenses for both processes.

While the goal of fostering is to eventually reunite children with their biological families, if no family member is willing or able to take the child, the courts and Child Protective Services (CPS) will generally allow willing foster parents to adopt. Unfortunately, adoption is not a guarantee.

“The exciting part of the process is getting to love and connect with children and watching them heal and grow,” Joe said. “You gain satisfaction that you have made an impact on children’s lives and they have a much better chance in life because of your intervention.”

The Sustaitas’ first foster experience lasted only six weeks, when the child was reunited with his family. They then had to decide whether to attempt to foster another child.

“Vulnerable children that have suffered loss and trauma need stable, loving people in their lives,” Joe said. “At the end of the day, our decision to become foster parents required that we make ourselves vulnerable in order to reach out to the vulnerable kids.”

A Family Addition

When Joe and Debbie met Kaiden, he was just 3 days old. His biological mother had left him at the hospital, and the couple was stepping in as foster parents to provide Kaiden with much-needed love and attention in his first days of life.

Dr. Stacey Boland BS’00 and Dr. Justin Boland BS’00 (pictured with their son)

The Sustaita family on Kaiden's adoption day.

“Kaiden stole our hearts from day one,” Joe said. “He is an energetic and exuberant boy who is very sweet and loves giving hugs and affection”

Joe and Debbie were able to officially adopt Kaiden on Oct. 25, 2017. Surrounded by friends and family, the joyous moment represented the culmination of years of work devoting energy to helping others feel at home.

Debbie and Joe remain active on campus with FOCUS and hope that they have a future Comet on their hands. The couple returns to campus often and looks forward to showing Kaiden their brick on Legacy Lane.

“We really love our alma mater and look forward to sharing that love with Kaiden.”

— Daniel Steele

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