Foster child gets his fairytale ending when math teacher adopts him

Damien was set to leave school when get got sick. Instead, his math teacher, Finn Lanning, took him and eventually adopted him. Steve Hartman shares their story in this week's "On the Road."

Video Transcript

- A lot can change in two years. CBS's Steve Hartman is on the road with a story that keeps getting better.

STEVE HARTMAN: It was Aurora, Colorado summer break, 2019 when we first met middle school math teacher Finn Lanning and Damian, the student he just couldn't shake.

DAMIAN: Do you know how many pencils I went through this year?

FINN LANNING: Like, way more than you should have?


STEVE HARTMAN: Damian says Mr Lanning was definitely one of his better teachers.

DAMIAN: When, like, a teacher doesn't bother me over and over again, that's better.

STEVE HARTMAN: Okay. You have a low bar.

DAMIAN: Yeah. Like, leave me alone, I'll leave you alone, I'll get my work done.

FINN LANNING: He's smart and funny, and he was always the student that stood out. And then one day he just came to me and said, I'm not coming back to school.

STEVE HARTMAN: Finn sat him down at that table, right then and there.

FINN LANNING: And what I found out was his story.

STEVE HARTMAN: He learned Damien was in foster care, that he had kidney disease, and because social services couldn't find a foster family willing and able to meet his medical needs, Damien had to leave school and move into a hospital. But here's the real kicker, the kid needs a transplant, desperately. And a lot of times, you can't get a transplant if you don't have a stable home to return to after surgery.

FINN LANNING: It hit me like a ton of bricks. I mean, you just can't sit across from somebody that you care about and hear them say something like that and know that you have room to help.

STEVE HARTMAN: And that's how Finn became a foster parent. He took in Damian, dialysis needs and all, even though prior to that hallway meeting he'd been a confirmed Bachelor who delighted in his childlessness.

FINN LANNING: I never thought that I could leave school and take one of them with me and still survive, right.

STEVE HARTMAN: Damien says, right back at you, bro.

DAMIAN: I was like, yes. I'd get out of the hospital. But I was like, my math teacher? Out of all the people?

STEVE HARTMAN: They got along famously.


STEVE HARTMAN: Although, Damien refused to get too excited. He'd seen fairy tales fall apart before.

DAMIAN: Rematch?

It's kind of bad thinking about that. But some people actually do that. Like, they'll like just kick you out one-- they'll be happy with you one day and then just kick you out the next.

STEVE HARTMAN: I suppose only time will let you trust.


STEVE HARTMAN: It's been nearly two years since we first told the story. Damien was able to get that transplant and he's now a much healthier, very typical, 15-year-old. Even though it's been absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I'll keep him. A few months ago, Finn adopted Damien. Teacher and student, now father and son.

DAMIAN: To be accepted feels like a dream come true.

STEVE HARTMAN: Proof that sometimes fairy tales do end happily ever after.

Steve Hartman, CBS News, on the road.