For nearly two years, Mandi and Tyler Palmer, of Perrysburg, Ohio, dreamed of the day they could officially call little Hunter their son.
“Once we got licensed as foster-to-adopt parents, that week, we got the phone call for Hunter. He was 8 days old,” Mandi, 33, tells PEOPLE. “We went and picked him up at Children’s Services. We brought him home and we went through the roller coaster ride of foster care for that entire year.”
After facing a few setbacks, and the uncertainty of Hunter being taken in by another family, Mandi and Tyler, 31, learned last December that they’d finally be able to adopt Hunter. So, on Dec. 18, the family-to-be dressed their best and headed to a local courthouse, where they signed the official paperwork to adopt the 17 month old.
“It was very emotional, in a good way. We had all of our family and friends there,” Mandi says. “At the end of the court process, the judge announced new legal name. And they read the adoption decree and that’s when Hunter looked at my husband and he said, ‘Dad!’ ”
She adds: “He just started clapping and everybody just started crying. It was so emotional. It’s definitely rewarding. It’s nice to look in his eyes now and not have to worry that he’s ever gonna have to leave us again.”
Mandi and Tyler, who wed in 2014, had always dreamed of being parents. Due to complications from Mandi’s Crohn’s disease diagnosis, Mandi was not able to conceive.
“That’s when we started looking into other options and we were talking about adoption and we kept hearing our county’s commercial for the need of foster parents in our area,” Mandi tells PEOPLE.
“We were scared. We kind of danced around the idea for a little bit. Then we prayed on it, and we just felt like God pushed us to do it,” she adds.
She and Tyler have viewed Hunter as their son since the moment they met the sweet infant, and Mandi tells PEOPLE that she’s happy their family is finally complete.
Mom Creates Emotional Video for Infant Son She Placed for Adoption: ‘He’ll Always Know I Loved Him’
“On adoption day, it’s almost like a ton of bricks just came off our chest. We now know that he’s never leaving us,” Mandi says. “He’ll always be safe and loved with us. So that in itself is rewarding.”
She adds: “Life just happens. We’ve loved him since we’ve gotten him. We’ve cared for him as if he was gonna be with us forever, because every child deserves that.”