Thanksgiving came early this year for seven families and nine children.
Kent County Courthouse was a scene of joy and happiness Saturday morning with face-painted children, balloon animals, and treats from Dunkin Donuts. The usually quiet and somber hallways were roamed by Cookie Monster and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen who posed with children and their families. It was a day of jubilee as families were created at the 19th annual National Adoption Day celebration.
“It takes a village to raise a child” Associate Justice Elizabeth Ortiz said to a packed courtroom. Allison and Jeffrey Ferrara listened with their hearts filled with joy. Ortiz had just granted their adoption of their daughter Kiana Elizabeth.
Warwick residents Jeffrey and Allison Ferrara had always considered fostering a child. When they were unable to conceive biologically, they contacted DCYF to participate in its foster program. Five days after contacting DCYF they met one-year-old Kiana and felt a connection. “She is the coolest kid I ever met. We are the lucky ones” Jeffrey beamed as he spoke about Kiana. Jeffrey and Allison fostered Kiana for one and a half years before becoming her adoptive parents.
“We’re going to give her a life she deserves” he promised. Now that the adoption is finalized Jeffrey feels a peace of mind that his family is complete. “Kiana is a definite part of our family now.” Jeffrey and Allison are hosting a pre-Thanksgiving play date with Kiana and her 15- year- old biological sister who continues to be a part of her life. Jeffrey advised those who are considering adopting to “be prepared. It is an emotional roller coaster” but the, “outcome is rewarding no matter what.”
Following the Ferrara adoption, Ortiz’s courtroom refilled with the family and friends of East Providence resident Lillybelly Brown to witness her adopting her 3- year- old Marilee Smith. At eight months old Smith’s biological mother was unable to provide for her. Brown who is Smith’s great-aunt came forward and fostered the child. Brown believes it is important to keep families together.
Having grown up in foster care, Brown said she “never felt wanted.”
She wants to provide her daughter with a better life than she had and praises those who adopt as “doing a wonderful thing.”
Now that the adoption is complete, Brown feels a sense of security with her daughter. She no longer worries that someone will take her and she is free to travel with her daughter without court approval. Brown is planning an extra special Thanksgiving this year with her wife Wanda, their four other adopted children as well as her two biological daughters to celebrate her family’s completion.
During this year’s celebration of National Adoption Day, nine children were adopted by seven families. Presiding over this year’s adoptions were Associate Justice Elizabeth Ortiz and Magistrate Paul T. Jones. This annual event was started by former Chief Judge of the Rhode Island Family Court Jeremiah S. Jeremiah with the collaboration of Chief of Staff Ronald J. Pagliarini.
Founded by a coalition of national partners (The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Alliance for Children’s Rights and Children’s Action Network), National Adoption Day’s first national celebration was held on Nov 18 2000.Events are held in 400 cities across the United States. More than 75,000 children in foster care have been adopted on National Adoption Day.
In Rhode Island there are currently 2,509 children in foster care with 382 waiting for adoptive families and 1,190 Rhode Island children have been adopted this year.
This year’s celebration began with Chief Judge Michael B. Forte of the Rhode Island Family Court welcoming families and thanking sponsors of the event. He told the audience that he is “thrilled and honored to find homes for disadvantaged children.” When asked why National Adoption Day is so important to him, Forte said “it gives us the ability to show the public what we’re doing. It shows the public this process in going on. There are a lot of kids who need homes.” He is especially inspired when disabled children are adopted. “People are doing God’s work” he proclaimed.
Ron and Pete Cardi, initial sponsors of the event, said their late brother Nick would have wanted to have participated in the celebration. Judge Forte presented the “Hope Award” in memory of Nick Cardi to David DiMaio the director of Friends of RI CASA. CASA is a national organization that provides court-appointed volunteer advocates to help children and youth who have experienced abuse or neglect.
Tara Simoni described her experience adopting her son. “It was more challenging than I thought. You have to advocate harder for your child than others have to” she said. She also provided a positive outlook on her experience saying it is “amazing, exciting, silly and fun.”
Families of the celebration were able to pose for complimentary portraits provided by Bettencourt Photography. Every family also received gifts bags filled with stuffed animals, toys, books, gloves, picture frames and gift cards from those who sponsored the event.
This year’s National Adoption Day was sponsored by Adoption RI, The Atomic Salon, Brewed Awakenings Coffee House, Cardi’s Furniture and Mattresses, Deb Bettencourt Photography, Dunkin’, Hasbro, Henry’s Tree Farm, Kay Jewelers, Local 2203 of Council 94, Massage Envy, Meritage/Chardonnay’s Restaurants, Pepsi Beverages Company, Prestige Dance and Fitness Studio, Providence Children’s Museum, T’s Restaurant, Uncle Tony’s Pizza and Pasta Restaurant and the Lynch Family, in Memory of Dennis M. Lynch, Sr.
Darlene Allen the CEO of Adoption RI was proud to sponsor and attend this year’s event. She says she “feels, hopeful, happy and encouraged we can do this after Covid. This event brings awareness to foster kids.”
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