Holding hands, mother and daughter skipped into a Pierce County juvenile courtroom Friday morning.
Cindie Vinson dabbed at her eyes as she took a seat before the judge. Aaliyah, 9, kicked her feet under the table and leaned in to her mom.
They were there to become a family, officially.
“I’m glad she’s ours,” Vinson said after signing the paperwork. “I always wanted a little girl.”
A grin flashed across Aaliyah’s face, and she nestled back in her new mother’s arms.
“I always wanted a mommy who would play with me,” she said.
It was one of 10 adoptions approved Friday during a celebration for National Adoption Day. The annual event is intended to raise awareness of the thousands of children across the country who need homes.
Statewide, there are 9,800 kids in foster care. That number expands to 400,000 nationwide. In Pierce County, 1,350 children are looking for permanent families, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services.
Employees tasked with recruiting families to care for those children can reel off sobering statistics: 25,000 kids each year age out of the system without finding a family. The average child waits two years to be taken home, and 20 percent will still be waiting after five years.
Those numbers are what made Friday’s adoptions all the more special – for families and social workers, said Betsy Rodgers of DSHS Children’s Administration.
“This reminds us why we do the hard work we do every day,” she said. “It’s why we come to work, and the work continues.”
For seven families the work ended Friday. At least, the paperwork and maneuvering around red tape did.
In two courtrooms, members of each family took their turn raising their right hands and swearing to a life of love, commitment and caring. The children were handed framed adoption certificates and teddy bears before being invited to sit in the judge’s chair and take their first official family photos.
Then the judge declared court adjourned and the kids banged the gavel against the desk.
Janey and LaDon Pope of Spanaway already had seven children before deciding to become foster parents. They had no plans to adopt until brothers Kysier, 6; Shyaire, 4; and Jamir, 3, were placed with them 18 months ago.
“We couldn’t let them go, so they found their forever home with us,” Janey Pope said.
LaDon Pope, who sat coloring pictures with his sons, said he grew up in a large family and understands how instrumental family is.
“We knew that they needed a family,” he said. “Now they have one.”
Amber Stanwyck was so determined to adopt 18-month-old Lana that she moved from Rockport, Texas, to establish residency after Texas officials told her she couldn’t adopt out of state.
Social workers who advocated on her behalf nicknamed her “Superwoman.”
Stanwyck’s husband, Carraig, had been in Afghanistan for years, working as a contractor, when his mom emailed the couple saying his cousin, an inmate at the Washington Corrections Center for Women at Purdy, had given birth to a baby and the little girl was up for adoption.
The Stanwycks immediately asked for her.
They’d always wanted to adopt, but their plan was pushed back when they had their son, Malakai, now 3.
Carraig Stanwyck completed all the paperwork, even sending his fingerprints to social workers five different times, from overseas. He returned two weeks ago and was delighted to meet his new daughter.
Amber Stanwyck left her business in Texas and moved with her son to Pierce County so she could make Lana part of the family. She said it was a frustrating experience, but more than worth it.
“She’s felt like ours since we got her,” Amber Stanwyck said.Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653 stacia.glenn@ thenewstribune.com