Adoption day began in flurry of activity. Missing shoes, ripped panty hose, mismatched socks were the theme of the morning as we raced to get everyone looking presentable and out the door by 8:00am. Our court time was 9:30 but we were asked to arrive 30 minutes before hand. The drive down to Pittsburgh was uneventful. We arrived at the courthouse on time. As we were driving around the courthouse in search of a parking garage we passed Ozzie’s biological sister walking across the street with her family. She was also being adopted yesterday.
We parked and walked across the street to the courthouse. Our first stop was at security where we all had to go through metal detectors. We were surprised to see Elsa ahead of us in line. She took off her hat and gloves and winter coat and laid them on the belt to be scanned while she pranced through the metal detector. It was quite comical. As we watched her take off her winter gear Gracie leaned over and whispered, “Why is she wearing a coat? I thought ‘The cold never bothered her anyway.’ 🙂
Ozzie was shaking with excitement as we exited the security area and were greeted by employees with an enthusiastic, “Welcome to Adoption Day!”
That is when my tears began. We had made it. We were at the end of a long journey and in 30 minutes he would be ours.
The employees asked us our names and informed us that there had been a change to the schedule. Our hearing would still be at 9:30 but we had been assigned a new judge. Our adoption would be finalized by Judge Ward. I couldn’t believe God’s good grace. After a rough year working with other court officials we would get our favorite judge for the final court hearing. Judge Ward is who finalized Tyler’s adoption. He is wonderful! As an adoptive parent himself he goes out of his way to make adoption day so special for his families. It couldn’t have been more perfect!
We were then sent up to the 4th floor to enjoy the festivities of the day while we waited. The courthouse was buzzing with excitement. Children dressed in their Sunday best filed into the elevators surrounded by loved ones. There were 47 children who received forever homes yesterday. That courthouse, which often is a place of great sadness, felt like holy ground.
Upstairs we found Zoey, Ozzie’s sister, waiting with the family that was adopting her. The sibling embraced and Ozzie greeted Zoey with, “Happy Adoption Day!!”
We took a moment to get some pictures before we let them loose on the cupcakes, pastries, cookies and juice that were set out for the waiting families to enjoy.
As we waited there were many fun activities for the families to enjoy. There was a man making balloon creations for the kids…
There was another man making caricatures…
And there were princesses walking around the courthouse visiting with the kids…
The fun activities were enjoyed as we waited for the rest of our family to show up. My parents were driving in from Ohio and with them were Travis and Krista, my brother and his girlfriend. Travis and Krista had come all the way from Texas for our special day. Mimi Joy and Aunt Beth also drove down to Pittsburgh for our special day. From the fourth floor’s glass walls the kids saw when they arrived at security.
In addition to family, we also had two very special people there…Karl and Christina. These two are the ones who have been with Ozzie and Zoey from the time they were removed from the home. These two are the ones who were instrumental in placing Ozzie with us and giving us our son. I am so grateful for these two social workers who, through their daily work, truly act as Christ’s hands here on earth.
We were soon called into the courtroom. Ozzie was up first. Toby, Ozzie and I sat in the front while our family and Zoey’s family sat behind us. The court honored our request of having their hearings back to back so that the siblings could attend each other’s finalizations. We felt that was important.
I wish I could adequately describe the feeling in that courtroom and Ozzie’s abundant happiness as we sat before the judge. He was bouncing with excitement and pure joy. Later the judge and Karl both said that they had never seen a better or more joyful adoption ceremony than Ozzie’s. We were crying, Ozzie was crying, the social workers were crying.
(Grace managed to quickly capture these photos from when the judge officially declared Ozzie a member of our family. The pictures aren’t the best quality but they beautifully capture the emotion of that moment.)
We then rearranged seats and watched as Zoey was adopted.
After the judge declared Zoey a member of her new family, Ozzie raced up to embrace her and as he hugged her he said, “I’m so happy for you, Zoey!”
Later that night as we gathered for family prayer and scripture study I asked each of the kids what their favorite memory of the day was. These were their responses…
Ozzie: When the judge said, “From this day on Ozzie will now and forever be known as Oswald William McCleery.”
Molly: I just loved and will always remember Ozzie’s enthusiasm and excitement as he sat before the judge.
Rusty: My favorite moment was after the judge was finished and Ozzie ran back and forth in front of the table jumping up and down with excitement.
Grace: My favorite memory will always be when Ozzie ran to hug Mom and Dad at the end of the ceremony.
Katie: My most profound moment was walking into the courthouse and seeing the “Welcome to Adoption Day” sign. The tears started to fall as the emotions of the day hit me.
Toby: The feeling as we left. The relief knowing it was done. He was ours and isn’t going anywhere.
It was a blessed day.
God is good!
(Stay tuned for part two)