There wasn’t a seat to be found Friday afternoon in the Centre County Courthouse annex building, even the jury box was filed with families waiting to officially welcome their newest member.
In recognition of National Adoption Day in Centre County, the event offered families an opportunity to meet others experiencing the adoption process. As they waited for their names to be called by Judge Pamela Ruest to finalize their adoptions, the magnitude of the moment was on full display as family members shared hugs and shed happy tears.
Justin Jain and Adam Woods traveled from Philadelphia to have the adoption of their seven-month-old daughter Emilia finalized. Jain and Woods have been working with State College based attorney Denise Bierly for almost two years. And while Friday marked the end of that journey it was the official beginning of a new family.
“It’s a celebration and it feels really special,” Jain said. “Until finalization you can’t post anything on social media or transmit any information via email or text, so it’s going to be nice for the holidays to be able to send family pictures and let our friends know about the news.”
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Dan and Melanie Hannon, of Julian, had more than 15 family members and friends in attendance to celebrate their day. The couple adopted their first daughter, Maya, with the help of Bierly three years ago.
As the Hannons sat in front of Ruest during the proceedings, Maya playfully ran through the courtroom. Ruest invited her to sit on the bench, and with her new little sister in her father’s arms, Ruest signed the papers changing the family’s lives forever.
“Its a very special day for a lot of reasons, but it gives you a sense of completion,” Dan Hannon said. “You can tell by the way Judge Ruest welcomed us that it’s a big day for everyone, and the county has made it even more special.”
The final family to be called was the Elliott family, of Boalsburg. With all eight adopted children in attendance, Diane and Frank Elliott welcomed their ninth, 13-year-old Widelande.
The family has adopted internationally, as well as domestically. The Elliotts have three children from Haiti, one fromBulgaria and one from Serbia. As Diane Elliott waited for their name to be called, she pulled out a picture of a boy she is considering making their tenth. With a bright smile, the pediatric nurse said she has opened her arms wide for children who need help.
“Once you start it’s hard to stop,” Elliott said. “I always tell people, it’s like anything else you are interested in. If you’re interested in cars you get information about cars; if you’re interested in kids you get emails about kids, people talk to you about kids, and then you realize how many really need help.”
All of the families shared different stories. No two paths to the Centre County Courthouse on Friday were the same, but Judge Ruest said the common ground was easy to see and feel throughout the afternoon.
“This is a day when families come together,” Ruest said. “And the one bonding and uniting factor is love.”