Cupcakes and balloons are not typical for the Watsonville courthouse, but Friday they were indicators of the celebratory mood National Adoption Day brought to the serious institution.
Fourteen former foster children became official legal members of loving families during ceremonies in Judge Denine Guy's courtroom.
"These are my kids," said Guy, the juvenile dependency court judge. The children being adopted had all been through numerous court proceedings leading up to Friday's life-changing moment.
"He's forever yours," Guy told Leah and Seth Boren of Santa Cruz as they swore an oath to love and support 3-year-old Aiden, their new adopted son. "It's a done deal, parents."
There are 243 foster children in Santa Cruz County; 28 percent of those kids won't go home to their families, according to Mary Greenham, Forever Families Team Supervisor with the county.
Aiden was one of 28 percent. Through foster care, he was placed with the Bornes in January. Read more about his story in this Santa Cruz Sentinel article.
Foster children not as fortunate will grow up in the system. Greenham said 50 percent of kids who age-out of foster care at age 18 will be homeless, dead or incarcerated in jail or a mental health facility within five years.
"Kids really want a family," Greenham said.
The 14 adoptions Friday—including three siblings adopted by one family—encompass 35 percent of the 40-or-so foster children adopted in the county each year. At some of the ceremonies, there wasn't a dry eye in the courtroom, Greenham said.
At Aiden's, Guy asked the little boy what he was there for. He told her "a party," a fitting response given the benches full of family, friends and the team of professionals that has worked with Aiden.
Balloons, clapping and encouragement of the "paparazzi"—all the loved ones with cameras—heighted the celebratory mood.
"We deal with some of the saddest cases that any court settings will ever deal with," Guy said. "... We're glad to have happy endings, happy families."
To learn more about foster care in Santa Cruz County, email firstname.lastname@example.org