Nine-year-old girl dubbed as ‘real-life Matilda’ after getting adopted by her former teacher

Loralie Henry, 9, spent almost half her life in the foster care system—1,445 days, to be exact. Her adoption story has been compared to Matilda’s.

Loralie was just 4 years old when she joined the system. At 5 she briefly returned to her biological mom. When she was 6, she was again placed in foster care.

Her time in the system was extended because of the pandemic. And Loralie didn’t have fond memories of those times.

Loralie Henry on a swing
screenshot: ABC 7

“It was actually really scary, too. I didn’t know what to expect in other homes or what they would feed me,” she recalled. “I didn’t really know what to do. So I thought, ‘Well, what should I do? Is there anyone waiting for me?’ I was really scared.”

That’s until she met the person who adopted her—her second-grade teacher.

Zoe Henry, a single mom and teacher from La Verne, never intended to adopt. Loralie convinced her to adopt.

Loralie Henry holding a black puppy
screenshot: ABC 7

“She came into my class, and I just took one look at her – her little freckles, her little birthmark,” Zoe said. “I am going to adopt this little girl. She’s my daughter. The minute I set eyes on her.”

Zoe thought Loralie might be adopted by another family. But when she found out that wasn’t going to happen, she begged the girl’s social workers to let her adopt. They were happy to let her adopt!

Two days later, Loralie was in Zoe’s home. The girl couldn’t be more thrilled that Zoe was her new mom.

Zoe Henry and Loralie Henry
screenshot: ABC 7

“I remember the moment when we were sitting by the car, she’s like, ‘You’re going to come with me.’ I was so surprised and happy. It was like an early present,” Loralie said.

Loralie was in second grade two years ago. Many wonderful things have occurred since then.

“She’s been in a lot of places, had a lot of obstacles to find her way here,” Zoe said. “But we’re very thankful for that journey, and it’s made her a brave and strong and just an amazing little girl. She is probably the most compassionate person I know.”

Zoe’s actions have inspired Loralie to do the same—to become a foster parent and adopt children in need of a parent who would love and care for them.

Zoe Henry and Loralie Henry raising their right hands during the virtual adoption ceremony
screenshot: ABC 7

“She wants to be a foster mom someday and adopt kids,” she said.

Loralie’s journey to adoption has been a long one, but it was worth the wait. Loralie, along with 164 other children, were adopted by their families on November 20, National Adoption Day.

“She completes our family, she completes our life. She brings such adventure and joy and fun and spunkiness to everything that we do, so it’s perfect. It’s perfect,” Zoe told KABC.

Although the ceremony is usually performed in person in a courtroom or other venue, it is just as special if it was done virtually.

Zoe Henry and Loralie Henry holding a homemade poster saying, "HAPPY gotcha DAY, Loralie!"

“Biological parents have the right to contest. It did not happen. I know her mom loves her. I know she really wanted to be a better part of her life,” Zoe said. “But like I tell Loralie, her mom loved her so much that she would let her be adopted so that I can give her what she needed.”

Loralie’s adoption story reminded many people of Matilda, the main character in a novel of the same name written by Roald Dahl in 1988.

The book was made into a film in 1996, where Matilda—played by Mara Wilson—is a girl with magical powers whose parents don’t treat her well. She forms a special relationship with Miss Honey, her teacher. Miss Honey adopts her at its end.

Learn more about this mother-and-daughter duo’s touching adoption story in the video below by ABC7.

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