by Donna McBride, Program Administrator/PIO and Supervisor for the CASA Unit, Pinal County Juvenile Court, Casa Grande City Councilwoman

Courts across the country celebrate National Adoption Month each November. Thanks to CASA of Pinal County and a host of other agencies, 69 children were adopted into forever homes on Nov. 18 at the Superior Courthouse in Florence.

After nearly nine months of planning, the courthouse came alive with nearly 400 families and volunteers. From clowns, cartoon characters and princesses to arts/crafts and family-fun photos – it was truly a celebration. While the day is full of fun and good times, it is still a formal court hearing that resulted in months of legal requirements for the foster family. Once the formal adoption was complete with four superior court judges, the celebration began!

Each family was escorted through the morning with their own “family ambassador.” Students from Santa Cruz High School served as ambassadors this year. Poston Butte Culinary Arts students created kid-friendly snacks while the Casa Grande Knights of Columbus added popcorn and snow cones to the menu. Cool Image cheerleaders were on hand to cheer on the day. Quilts for Kidz spent hundreds of hours creating handmade quilts for every single child.

One family knows all too well what this day means. Norma and Tim Brown of Casa Grande were lucky enough to adopt three children: TJ, Roby and Adrian. And since that time in 2006, they have taught their family to be thankful and give back to the community. The last several years the Brown family has stopped by Adoption Day to share their good fortune with other families. Each of the kids has brought teddy bears to share with other adoptive children, which were paired up with those adopting three children, just like them.

This day also had special meaning for several volunteer advocates with the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. After advocating for their child, some for years, they were part of the adoption celebration.

Anne Lewis was a brand new advocate 2.5 years ago, when she walked into the home of a grandmother who had already raised nine children and now had two grandchildren ages 2 and 4. After endless trips to court, Adoption Day marked her final trip with the girls and grandmother. The girls have grown from shy toddlers to happy, animated children who felt surrounded with love from their Nana and a large extended family.

“I feel blessed to have been a part of this process and to see the court system working to provide stability for a family,” Lewis said. “I entered the courtroom for the last time as their CASA, and left as a friend. They taught me so much about the joys and rewards of being a CASA.”

Each family received a gift bag filled with coupons, gift certificates, homemade quilts, teddy bears, books, hats and a complimentary family photograph. Adoption Day was a collective effort of agencies like Pinal County Juvenile Court, Pinal County Superior Court, Pinal County Attorney’s Office, Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Pinal County Clerk of the Court, Arizona Department of Child Safety and The Shanker Law Firm.

In all, there were 17 groups and 123 volunteers that made this special day happen. No doubt these families are creating new traditions and dreams for the years ahead. For the Adoption Day Committee, we’re already making plans for next November!