Cop Adopts New Life
NYPD veteran follows Catholic faith to adopt brothers into his family
As a policeman working the narcotics beat in New York City, his world was shaken when a teammate was killed in a “buy and bust.” As a detective assigned to organized crime, he put away some high-ranking mobsters and dug up a body on a beach. After 9/11, he joined the anti-terrorism unit that captured a Pakistani who conspired with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge.
And those were just some of the bigger cases that Det. Brendan Finn was involved in. Now retired after 20 years on the New York Police Department, Finn says that he loved every day on the job.
Yet he has a new life now as a father, after he and his wife, Patty, adopted brothers from Ukraine. Not able to have children after eight years of marriage, the couple sought adoption. They were surprised and perplexed when presented with a chance to adopt brothers – ages 8 and 14. “We were concerned about taking in a 14-year-old boy who has spent years in institutions,” he admitted, “but I figured with my police background I would be able to handle it.”
Now he sees the hand of God in the decision they made four years ago. Vlad is 18 years old and attending Mount St. Mary’s University in the fall. His brother Denis is 14 years and doing well in high school.
Finn, age 53, lives with his family on Long Island, and still travels into Manhattan as a private investigator and an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Fathers for Good spoke with him about his police career and his new direction.
Fathers for Good: Tell us about your NYPD years.
Brendan Finn: In the early 1990s organized crime had a pretty good grip on New York City, and the NYPD and the Manhattan DA’s office were determined to break this stranglehold. My team worked many labor racketeering cases but they morphed into more complex investigations. One investigation started with a loanshark/gambling victim who owed a bunch of mafia loansharks a lot of money. The next thing we know, we were in the midst of a Colombo family war between the Persico and the Orena factions. They were killing each other in record numbers.
One of the high points of the case was the arrest of four Colombo soldiers as they met with their “capo” at a condo in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Their condo was loaded with shotguns, handguns, bullet-proof vests and radios.
Another Colombo soldier we arrested decided to cooperate and he led us to a dead body that was buried on the beach in Staten Island. The guy had been in the ground for almost eight years and there wasn’t much left besides his running suit and the sneakers he was wearing back when they buried him in 1983. It was also during this case that we stopped a mob hit. We arrested the hit men as they were about to move on their intended victim.
FFG: What made you want to become a cop?
Finn: My father was a NYPD officer for 27 years, but when I was a senior in Fordham University I never even thought I would follow in his footsteps. The job seemed too crazy. But five years later I found myself in the Police Academy, doing just that. And I was right, the job was crazy. But it was also very rewarding. I met the greatest people in the world during those 20 years, men and women who would give you the shirt off their back, and they would do it for strangers as well. Cops have the biggest hearts around and they also like to have fun. That is what makes them so well-suited for a dangerous and thankless job.
Waking up in the morning, thinking about the day ahead, the investigations, the challenges, the laughs with my partners and teammates, these were the things that made the job so rewarding. When I retired and started doing other work, I realized how lucky I was for those 20 years, because I never minded going to work. It was challenging, rewarding, exhilarating, sometimes heartbreaking and occasionally depressing, but it made you feel alive!
FFG: How was anti-terrorism work after 9/11?
Finn: I worked in the “Al Qaeda Squad” and was fortunate to be involved in some high impact cases. If you check the FBI Counterterrorism website you will find a case on Uzair Paracha, a Pakistani national who conspired with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, among other things. I testified in his federal trial. He is serving 30 years – probably not enough because he was 23 when sentenced.
FFG: Tell us about adopting two older boys.
Finn: It was Jesus who led us to adopt our two sons. We were just like everybody else who seeks adoption to fill the hole in their lives: we wanted to get an infant or young toddler. The younger the better. But one day, while reading the church bulletin, my wife found out about Operation Hearts and Homes, an organization that facilitates adoption for older children from overseas. We attended their meeting, and soon found ourselves as the last-minute fill-in hosts for a 9-year-old Ukrainian orphan. The original host parents couldn’t do it, so we stepped up.
We fell in love with this boy instantly and began the adoption process. Eighteen months later we were told that we had to adopt his 14-year-old brother as well, or there would be no adoption at all. It was a tough time in our lives; deciding to adopt a teenage boy from an orphanage was one of the hardest decisions in our lives. But it turned out to be the absolute best decision of our lives. We traveled to Ukraine, picked up Denis at his children’s home and then met his older brother, Vlad, for the first time, and told him we wanted to adopt him. Of course, we did this through a translator because the boys spoke only Russian.
Our lives have been so incredibly enriched by these two boys, our sons. It wasn’t always easy, but it has been the best four years of my life, learning to be the father of these two great guys. Just like the police department, it has been challenging and rewarding and exhilarating and sometimes a little heartbreaking. But it is a wonderful experience that makes me feel so alive!
“God works in mysterious ways,” is an old saying that never had much resonance with me until now. But we found out that God had a great plan for us. We were sad that we could not have our own biological children, but we are thrilled to know that God’s plan was for the four of us to be a family. There were two sets of people on either side of the Atlantic Ocean with broken hearts. Now there is one happy family living right by that ocean who love each other with happy, fulfilled hearts.
Editor’s Note: There are many ways to be a "Courageous Dad." Be sure to see the movie "Courageous" which tells the story of four fathers and their struggles to become the men God created them to be.