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200 Foster Children in L.A. County Join New Families on Adoption Day

About 3,300 youngsters nationwide receive permanent homes in court proceedings.

November 20, 2005|Jean Merl | Times Staff Writer

More than 200 foster children throughout Los Angeles County officially joined families Saturday in court proceedings celebrated with balloons, teddy bears, near-constant picture taking and buckets of emotion.

From toddlers to teenagers, youngsters and their new families trooped into the Edmund D. Edelman Children's Court as part of National Adoption Day, an annual event designed to publicize the need for adoptive families.

Courts in 45 states finalized an estimated 3,300 adoptions Saturday. Judge Michael Nash, who presides over Los Angeles Juvenile Court, called the proceedings a great way to kick off the holiday season.

Mary Coleman and her daughter, Jacqueline, would surely agree.

While Nash and children's advocates addressed a first-floor news conference about the plight of foster children hoping to find permanent families, the Colemans waited outside a fourth-floor courtroom for their turn to go before a judge. They both were adopting Keana, 17, Marquez, 16, and Shenika, 12. Mary Coleman is the youngsters' grandmother and Jacqueline Coleman is their aunt.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 23, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Adoption Day -- An article in Sunday's California section about Adoption Day for 200 Los Angeles County foster children said that there were about 300,000 children in county foster care, with about 3,000 eligible for adoption. There are about 22,000 children in the system, about 800 of whom are awaiting adoption.

"These are my babies, all three," Mary Coleman said. "I raised them from when they first came home from the hospital" because their mother could not take care of them.

"I really wanted to adopt them," she added. "It took a long time, but now I'm very happy."

Keana said she and her siblings "can breathe a sigh of relief" with the completion of the long adoption process. "Today is the last day we'll see our social worker," she said.

The event began in Los Angeles County in 1998 as Adoption Saturday. With the help of attorneys, judges and others -- many of whom contribute their services -- the program has helped more than 9,000 foster children join permanent families. About 300,000 children are in foster care in the county, with about 3,000 eligible for adoption. Some have been waiting years for a family, Department of Children and Family Services officials said.

Presiding over some of the adoption ceremonies was Judge Charles McCoy Jr., who normally supervises the civil branch of the county court system. Because he and his wife had adopted three foster children themselves, he told the new families coming before him that he could appreciate the day's import for them.

As soon as McCoy declared that Kevin, 11, was officially the child of Francis and Patricia Connor of Rialto, the boy received a hug from his new mother, who cried, dabbing at her eyes with a hastily borrowed handkerchief.

Outside the courtroom, Patricia Connor said that Kevin's birth mother, one of her sisters, had been unable to care for him. Another sister, Mary Lewis, who also attended the proceedings, raised him until he was 2, when he moved in with the Connors. Kevin's birth mother recently died, "and I just kept thinking about her, wishing she could have seen" the adoption proceedings, Patricia Connor said.

Kevin said he was glad about the adoption -- and a family celebration planned for today.

"My grandfather's coming, and we're going to have a big party," Kevin said.

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