Yolanda and Luis Espinoza began floating the idea of adopting a child while they were dating.

“We knew that someday we may want to adopt. We originally talked about adopting a baby,” Luis said.

The couple married. Years later, a series of coincidental experiences drew them back to the idea of adoption. Then in 2017, they discussed the possibility more seriously with their 10-year-old biological daughter, Cielo. She was all for it. She especially liked the idea of having a sister close to her age. As a Catholic, Cielo’s prayers included a specific request to God.

“Cielo was the one insisting, praying, saying ‘OK, if it’s a baby, it will be ok, but I really, really, really want a sister closer to my age,'” Luis said, smiling.

The couple took adoption orientation classes sponsored by the state. As the weeks progressed, some prospective parents dropped out of the class, which didn’t sugar-coat the potential challenges that arise with raising a child, especially a child who was in “the system.”

“A lot of people said, 'You know, this is not for me,'” Luis said.

Luis and Yolanda stayed with the classes and became certified to adopt. They decided they would be willing to adopt a boy or a girl of a wide age range. More than anything, they wanted to adopt a child who could benefit from all the unique attributes their family could provide.

Then in December of 2017, the state identified a 10-year-old girl who seemed to be an ideal candidate for the Espinozas.

The girl, Alejandra, is two months younger than Cielo. She wanted to live with a family that had Mexican roots and spoke Spanish. The Espinozas fit those criteria.

The first time Yolanda met Alejandra, she felt it was right.

“I just began crying,” Yolanda said.

The family spent the next several months with Alejandra. Cielo and Alejandra swam together. They watched Disney movies. Alejandra taught Cielo how to kick a soccer ball. Cielo encouraged Alejandra to keep drawing, even though Alejandra didn’t feel confident. The two were becoming friends and sisters.

“It’s like God got the list and checked everything off of it,” Cielo said, speaking of Alejandra as a sister.

In October, Alejandra was officially adopted by the Espinozas in a Maricopa County court. For the Espinozas, the ceremony was merely a formality.

“She fits perfectly into our family,” Luis said.

A “what-if” scenario discussed by two people in love many years earlier was now a reality. Luis and Yolanda say their new daughter has already given them more than they can give her.

“We wanted to help in the beginning,” Luis said. “But now it’s for us.”

To prospective foster parents, the Espinozas recommend considering all aspects of parenthood.

“These kids that are in the system are in so much need of love,” Yolanda said. “It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not easy to raise any child.”

For more information on fostering and adoption in Arizona, you can go to dcs.az.gov/fosteradoption/provide-permanency-child-through-adoption or www.arizonaschildren.org/foster-adopt.