SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — November 20 is National Adoption Day.
As many prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, several local families have an extra special reason to be grateful this year. Their adoptions were finalized in court during National Adoption Month.
Even though the annual party in November was canceled again this year due to the pandemic, the celebrations continued.
Seven-year-old Landon said his adoption finalization day was very special because now he has a bigger family.
His mom, Chris, agreed it was a big day, allowing for stability and security.
"Until today, there was always that possibility of someone coming and saying, 'You've got to go again, you've got to move,' and now there's that safety net that's secure," said Chris. She said Landon now knows he won't be going anywhere else, and that this is his forever family.
Chris and her husband Lee got married in 2009, and when they couldn't start a family the traditional way, they turned to San Diego County Adoptions.
As a teacher who had worked in areas with a big need, Chris said she and Lee had many conversations about how they could best help kids.
First came 6-year-old Elijah, whose adoption was finalized in January of 2020. Landon joined their family 8 months later, during the pandemic, which meant a lot of family bonding time.
"We learned how to play a lot of games together, do a lot of drawing together," Chris said, adding. "We still do a lot of drawing together as a family and we go to the beach."
Elijah's adoption finalization came just before the pandemic lockdown. during a time when family and friends were able to attend. Landon's finalization, however, had to be virtual, bit his family said it was just as special.
"Landon is not getting that big celebration in the court... so to be able to do it at home and have our family [attend virtually] and this piece [news story] here, it really gives him that celebration as well," said Chris.
Landon's finalization fell during National Adoption Month, when San Diego County Juvenile Court usually hosts a big party, where multiple families can finalize together to celebrate.
The party was canceled in November 2020, and again this year due to the pandemic.
Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Ana España says the silver lining is that technology is allowing even more people to be part of the court celebration.
"We can extend the invitation to families all around the world... so families from the East Coast and families abroad can participate virtually in adoptions that happen in the courthouse," said Judge España.
"We're really proud that we've actually finalized 312 adoptions in our [San Diego] County, and these families are just incredible," said Kimberly Giardina, Director of Child Welfare Services at the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency.
"It's a celebration of their strength, their love for one another, and their ability to come together and give permanency to these kids," she said of adoptive families.
Lee and Chris encourage others to adopt and consider the older children who need homes.
"Even though they're older there's still a lot of things they haven't gotten to do," said Lee, adding, "We still get to have a lot of firsts with them."
"If we can do, it anybody can do it," said Chris, who said she and her husband work full-time.
"We just think about how lucky we are to be able to do this, and to be part of their lives," said Chris. She said they feel very fortunate to have Elijah and Landon as their sons.
To learn more about becoming a CASA with Voices for Children, click here.
If you're interested in becoming a foster or adoptive resource family with the County of San Diego, call 1-877-792-KIDS.