Foster kids get surprised with adoption news at Disney World

Published: Jul. 20, 2017 at 8:42 AM EDT
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A recent trip to Disney World was more than magical for these young first-timers — it was life-changing.

During a vacation to Disney's Magic Kingdom in April, 12-year-old Janielle and and her 10-year-old brother Elijah learned they were both getting adopted.

The children, who had been living with their foster parents, Courtney and Tom Gilmour, for nearly three years, knew the day would come. But they never expected Mickey Mouse would be the one to deliver the news.

"We thought it would be so cool to be in the Magic Kingdom and slip Mickey a sign," Courtney told CBS News. "He could show it to the kids and we would let them know their adoption date that way."

As Courtney predicted, Janielle and Elijah were shocked.

During a private meet and greet arranged by the park, Mickey asked the kids to pose with him, holding up a sign that revealed their May 25 adoption date.

"Adoption..." Elijah read out loud before gasping.

The siblings broke down into tears.

"Congratulations! That's awesome," Mickey said as he hugged a tearful Janielle.

"They were super surprised. They really thought they were just getting a picture and an autograph of Mickey," Courtney said. "Everyone in our life knew the adoption date beside the kids. They had no idea."

Courtney posted a 5-minute video of the emotional moment on Facebook last week, and it's now going viral with more than 1.5 million views.

"I've watched it about a million times and I cry every single time," Courtney said. "It's a hard feeling to express, because we know we've given something that the kids desperately wanted. I'm happy, excited, nervous — all those things wrapped into one."

Courtney and Tom started the process of becoming foster parents just one month after they got married.

"I was a foster child myself, so I always knew growing up I wanted to be a foster parent," Courtney. "I knew the man I was going to marry had to be willing to be a foster parent."

Fortunately for Courtney, he was.

Over the past three years, the couple has fostered 13 children, including Janielle and Elijah. The pair always volunteered to take in siblings, usually two at a time.

"I don't believe in breaking up sibling groups," Courtney said. "You're already losing so much as a [foster] kid."

Most of the kids they took in were younger and considered a "short term placement." Janielle and Elijah were different.

"When they came to us they were a little bit older and we were able to instill a bit of a bond," Courtney said. "We spent time with them and clicked very quickly. They were already calling themselves Gilmours in school."

The brother and sister had been in the foster system — on and off — for most of their lives. Now, after all of these years, Courtney hopes the kids will know what it's truly like to be part of a family.

"Letting the kids be normal is what helps us breathe," Courtney said. "Foster care isn't easy. Even a simple thing such as going to sleepover party becomes this big ordeal, and they get embarrassed. Now they can live a normal life."

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