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Ventura County

Grand Day for 8 Families in Ventura Court

Ceremony: A judge finalizes 10 adoptions at the event honoring permanency. 'We just fell in love with these kids,' says one mother.

November 17, 2001|TINA DIRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You would never know by looking at 2-year-old Patrick, caught up in the brightly colored balloons dancing overhead, that this was one of the most important days of his life.

But on Friday, he got a new mom, dad and a clan of big brothers and sisters.

To make Patrick's adoption official, Judge Charles Campbell handed the toddler a piece of paper.

"This is a certificate of membership in the Cline family," said Campbell, drawing a round of cheers from Patrick's nine brothers and sisters.

In honor of Adoption and Permanency Month, eight families finalized the adoption of 10 children Friday in Ventura County Family Court. Usually the court finalizes about three adoptions a week, all done confidentially. But Campbell's courtroom was wide open Friday to give the public a chance to glimpse the happiness families share when the long, hard road to adoption is finally traversed.

"I feel blessed," said Rick Cline, beaming as he held his new son, who was sucking the lollipop he received from the judge.

Adoption workers said the month helps educate the community about the need for foster and adoptive parents.

"There's a great need for permanency for these children," said Margaret Bursett, child and family social worker for the county. "Many of these children come from very traumatic backgrounds, and they need permanency and stability. It can take quite a commitment."

The need is greatest, she said, for older kids.

"Most people prefer young children to adopt," Bursett said. "We have a much harder time placing the older ones, especially teenagers."

The Clines said they understand that need, which is why they adopted 7-year-old Violet in 1999 into their family that included three biological children. The rewards have been so great, LeAnna Cline said, that her family decided to open up their home even further.

"It's not even like we made a decision to do this," Cline said. "We just knew there was work to be done, so we rolled up our sleeves and started doing it."

The family moved into a five-bedroom home in Camarillo, bought a 15-seat van and agreed to take in five foster children, including a 14-year-old girl and her 2-year-old daughter. It's a huge undertaking, the Clines acknowledged, especially on the income of a painter and stay-at-home mom. The kids alone drink three gallons of milk a day, LeAnna Cline jokes.

And dinner time?

"You ever see the food fight scene in 'Animal House'?" Rick Cline said. "That's kind of what it looks like."

But somehow they make do.

"We've grown as much as these children," LeAnna Cline said. "We take so much for granted. But these kids, whatever background they come from, they never give up on a home. They never give up on that light at the end of the tunnel."

The Clines said Patrick, 7 months old when he came to them, didn't crawl, hardly made gurgling sounds and never cried. Just over a year later, his rosy cheeks could have lit up the courtroom.

"Sometimes it gets a little hectic," 12-year-old Don Cline said of all the brothers and sisters he has gained over the past 24 months. "But I'm never bored."

In another corner of the court hallway, 33-year-old Debbie Sinclair of Simi Valley stood flanked by social workers Shelley Townley, Robin Heins and Deanna Kettner. Sinclair and her husband already had a son when they became foster parents to James, 4, and Nick, 2.

Sinclair thought it was temporary. If she adopted at all, she wanted a little girl. But it wasn't long before those thoughts left her mind.

"We just fell in love with these kids," Sinclair said.

And so did her 10-year-old son, Garrett, who became an instant big brother. He was never jealous of the attention his little-brothers-to-be got from his parents. In fact, he reveled in the older brother role.

"He gave the gift of his parents to these little boys," Townley said.

Social workers filled the halls Friday, holding balloons, snapping photos, even shedding tears. There is so much red tape involved in an adoption, they noted, that reaching the end is like surviving a battle.

This was the victory party.

"Especially for the older kids, who know what it means every time the social worker comes to the door," Townley said. 'They've been all through the system and this is a celebration of the end of that process."

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