More than a dozen children received balloons, teddy bears and cookies Nov. 16 during Butler County’s fifth annual “Adoption Day” in the county courthouse.
Court officials and donors go out of their way to make the brief, official court procedure a celebratory and special day.
But the children impacted, such as 10-year-old Levi Wentz, already know the greatest gift they are receiving.
“I’m getting new parents and a last name. Now, we are all going to be a family,” said Levi, whose eyes doubled in size as he stressed his last word: “forever.”
Last Friday’s court appearance is the final step in a process that took up to a number of years for some of the participants.
Judge Kelley Streib, who does all the county’s adoptions, said she started the Adoption Day celebration because there was nothing like this available when she adopted her two daughters in 1999 and 2004.
“It was all done by paper back then,” Streib said. “This is such a special day. So it should be special. I wanted parents to have a memory to share with their children.”
But since then, Streib said Adoption Day has become even more special to her because, as the county’s family court judge, she has come to know many of the children and parents involved.
Eleven families finalized adoptions to 15 children in court. Seven of those families, adopting 11 of the children, found their way to a new family through fostering and the Butler County Children and Youth. The remaining four children and families were private adoptions.
The adoptions finalized on Adoption Day represent about half of the adoptions that will occur in this county this year. The other half occur throughout the year.
Each story is unique.
Carrie Herb, 35, of Middlesex Township made the decision to become a single foster mother two years ago with an open mind toward adoption if a child in her care became adoptable.
“Roads can be bumpy,” Herb said. “Sometimes we need a little extra help. I knew I was in a position to help.”
She had no idea when she went to Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh two years ago to pick up a newborn that little Jayden would someday become her son.
“I knew I could provide him a safe place to stay even if it was only for a while,” said Herb, who was a foster mother to three children before Jayden moved into her home.
Herb said during the fostering process she met Jayden’s biological mother, who died last year. Bureaucracy and paperwork delayed finalization of the adoption until now.
“He’s all boy,” Herb says of her son, who loves trucks and sand and playgrounds.
Herb says her family will pause for now. She won’t immediately adopt or foster more children.
Beth and Brad Wentz of Gibsonia took a different path, adopting three children from the same family during their first year of marriage.
“People advised us not to take on so much so quickly, but this is what is in our heart,” Beth said.
The children — Levi, 6-year-old Elijah and 5-year-old Naomi — first had been fostered by Beth’s parents.
Then Beth and Brad fostered them.
“We fell in love with them, and when they became available for adoption, we didn’t want them to leave our family,” said Beth, who also gave birth to a son, Joseph, three months ago.
“We prayed on it, and our hears told us, ‘This is what you are supposed to do. This is your family.’”