Cheers and laughter erupted in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse atrium Saturday morning as parents and their newly adopted children celebrated being together in what they call “forever homes.”
The annual event was part of National Adoption Day, an effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in U.S. foster care awaiting permanent homes. About 700 children in Mecklenburg County are in foster care.
On Saturday, 76 children adopted into Charlotte families this year were recognized along with their parents. County officials who welcomed the group included Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio and Peggy Eagan, director of the Mecklenburg Department of Social Services.
Parents and children packed into a courtroom where District Court Judge Donald Cureton Jr. handed out certificates in recognition of the adoptions. Kids got small toy bears.
Charles Bradley, Mecklenburg County Youth and Family Services director, told the group that “permanency for us is one of the most important aspects of youth work.”
He said the adoptions being recognized meant that children “don’t have to wonder if they’ll be in the same home next Thanksgiving Day or wonder if they’ll be the same home next Christmas.”
Travis and Carrie Dickenson of Charlotte came to the event with their newly adopted daughters. The sisters, ages 3 and 5, had been in foster care.
The girls have been living with the Dickensons since March, but final adoption papers arrived on Thursday. “My heart is overflowing,” said Carrie Dickenson, 37. “We’re thankful and joyful.”
Married for 10 years, the couple had discussed adoption before, but Dickenson said the talk became more serious as they “struggled to sustain pregnancies.”
She said the adopted girls “have a special bond beyond being sisters.”
The couple adopted siblings because “we wanted them to have support for each other,” Carrie said.
“It feels like they were made for us,” she said. “I can’t imagine it any other way.”
Foster parent Emma Fox took part in the celebration with her four adopted children, ages 9 through 13. She hoped to bring a 7-month-old boy into her “forever family” if he came up for adoption.
“This is a very exciting day for me and my children,” said Fox, 51. “I’m very blessed and thankful. I love it.”
Meckenburg’s Adoption Day event was sponsored by the local nonprofit Justice Initiatives Inc., Kappa Alpha Theta, a service organization, the Guardian ad Litem Advocacy Foundation, UNC Charlotte School of Social Work bachelor of social work class and the community engagement class.
Of the approximately 700 children in Mecklenburg County foster care, 80 are eligible for adoption. Thirty don’t have identified adoptive homes yet, according to DSS officials.
Before meeting with families in the courtroom on Saturday, Judge Cureton called the Adoption Day celebration “a great occasion, to say the least.”
He reflected on the bad conditions some of the adopted children had experienced and the “compassion failure” people who work in the court system often feel after an onslaught of negative cases.
But the joy he witnessed Saturday helped move things back in a positive direction for him.
“It’s a confirmation of the real hard work and toil we do in the courtroom every single day,” Cureton said. “It makes all the stuff we have to deal with so gratifying.”