Melissa and Chad Peters adopted son Evan on Friday (FOX19 NOW/Mike Buckingham)
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -
Hamilton County Job & Family Service hosted its largest-ever mass adoption ceremony Friday with 17 children joining eight permanent, loving families.
While adoption finalizations are normally confidential, the families have agreed to publicize 9 a.m. event.
The full ceremony in Judge Ralph Winkler's Hamilton County Probate Court was live-streamed over the Internet for all to see.
It was the 9th annual mass adoption ceremony, always timed to occur during in National Adoption Awareness Month.
This year's ceremony included children from ages 10 months to 11 years and three different sibling sets.
The children, all victims of abuse and neglect, joined new families in an emotional ceremony and celebrate afterward with their caseworkers, court-appointed advocates, extended families and other people special to their lives, county officials said.
"This ceremony, as it is every year, will be packed with emotion," said Moira Weir, director of the county's Job and Family Services department, in a prepared statement before the event.
"I look forward to this day because it really is a day when we get to put aside the loss and disappointment and celebrate the power of love. In past ceremonies, we have seen both parents and children moved to tears over the joy of becoming a family," her statement read. "For some of our teenagers, they have spent many years in our care and spent time in several foster homes. The idea that someone loves them and is willing to finally give them a permanent home is sometimes very overwhelming."
For the families, Friday's ceremony was the culmination of unions created and nurtured over a period of years.
"He's learning to be a human, and I'm learning to be a mom," said Brianna Dennis, who is adopting her 3-year-old nephew. "It's a growing process, the two of us together…He doesn't know any different. I'm going to raise him and we're going to have a perfectly fine life. I feel like if you're supposed to do something, God will make a way for it. And he has."
Dennis, who was adopted herself, has had Xander, her sister's child, since he was 18 months old.
The others children adopted Friday:
• A 3-year-old boy who received a heart transplant at 20 months will be adopted by his foster family that lives on a farm.
• A 6-year-old boy who entered foster care at birth will be adopted by the foster family that first cared for him and remained in his life through a failed reunification with his biological father.
• A 6-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother will be adopted by the family that has fostered her since she was 1 and him since he was born.
• A sibling set of six – yes six! – will be adopted by their foster parents. These parents had never fostered or adopted before when the six were placed in their care. They insisted on keeping the children, ages 10 months to 9 years, together in one family.
• A sibling set of four – ages 5 to 11 – will be adopted by the family that has fostered them for five years.
• A 1-year-old boy will be adopted by the foster family that has cared for him since birth.
• A 10-year-old boy is being adopted by a family with a ton of older brothers to keep him busy.
To read more about Dennis, or two of the other adoptive families, click on these links:
Hamilton County investigates more than 5,000 reports of child abuse and neglect each year. When intensive services fail and a child can no longer remain safe in a parent's care and an available relative cannot be found, the county will seek custody of the child.
If continued attempts at reunification fail, that child will become available for adoption and the county will attempt to find a safe and loving adoptive home.
"Finalizing an adoption is always the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by our staff," Weir said. "Pairing a child with specific needs with a family that can meet those needs is difficult. This ceremony is not just our way of celebrating these families, but our way of celebrating the 100 or so adoptions we do each year."
The agency currently has about 200 children available for adoption, the lowest number in years. The Nov. 20 ceremony stands as a symbol for all of the adoptions the agency does – more than 80 so far in 2014.
The children available for adoption come from a variety of backgrounds, neighborhoods, economic circumstances and living situations.
They may have varying levels of medical, emotional or behavioral problems. They all bring their own personalities, strengths, interests and gifts.
But they all have one thing in common: the desire for a loving family and sense of permanency.
Any Ohio resident over 18 years old is eligible. Adoptive parents must:
• Pass a physical to show they are in good physical health and capable of caring for children.
• Pass a local, state and federal (if not a resident of Ohio for the past five years) background check.
• Pass a home study process (includes fire inspection as well as other rules and regulations).
• Pass more than 30 hours of specialized training.
Those interested in adopting or becoming foster parents can learn more at www.hckids.org, or by calling (513) 632-6366. Or, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.