A courtroom is not always a joyful place, but in some cases, it’s where families are made.
The Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida, recently transformed into a festive space filled with Halloween decorations, candy, and costume-clad families for a very special adoption event. At the end of the day, 11 families adopted 15 kids who were previously in foster care!
“We have wonderful families adopting these kids, giving them the love, stability they so desperately need,” said Judge Michael Kalil, who officiated the ceremony. “It’s a beautiful event.”
The Halloween-themed adoption was a perfect kickoff to National Adoption Awareness Month in November, and it was the first of its kind since well before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit. It was organized by Family Support Services of North Florida, a nonprofit that worked overtime during the pandemic to help 200 more children than they normally do. Jenn Petion, their president and CEO, said they decided to hold this “Home for Halloween” event at the start of the holiday season for a reason.
“The holidays can be a particularly challenging time as they remember the family that they didn’t have and the pain of not being able to be in a safe and loving home,” she explained. “So to have a finalization event that’s tied to a holiday really starts to change those memories and allows them to symbolize the start of forever, the start of something new, and that they really can have that wonderful happy ending.”
Jenn, who went to the event dressed up as Elsa from “Frozen,” said there wasn’t “a dry eye in the courtroom.” Many people brought their extended families to witness the adoptions, and the children were delighted to finally end their days in foster care and enter their forever homes.
Many of the adoptive families started off as foster parents and have been waiting for months, if not years, to make it official. The Chance family brought along their four biological kids to adopt almost 2-year-old Lacy, whom they’ve cared for since she was a newborn. Her dad, Paul Chance, says he hopes events like this one will encourage others to foster and adopt one of the thousands of children who need a home.
“If you can foster, please. If you can help your community and help the children — foster,” he said.
Jenn agreed, adding that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” foster family. “We need families of all different types from diverse backgrounds and different stages of life to meet the needs of diverse kids in our system,” she continued. “Whether that is a temporary parents in foster parenting, or whether that’s a forever home through adoption, we need a wide variety of families to match the special needs and abilities of our kids.”
This is one Halloween party these kids and their parents won’t ever forget. We’re so glad these children found a loving home to call their own. We hope the event inspires others to take that leap and become foster parents, too!
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