NEW BRUNSWICK – The children came from as far as China and Colombia, and the parents came from as far as Virginia to celebrate the completion of eight adoptions at the Middlesex County Courthouse on Wednesday as part of National Adoption Day.
Attorney James Nolan, an adoptive father who was master of ceremonies for the celebration, said it was the eighth annual celebration of this event in Middlesex County. A similar celebration was held at the Somerset County Courthouse later in the day, when 17 more adoptions were completed for families in Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren counties.
The stories of each family were different, but there were some common threads. Some parents who already had biological children of their own were moved to adopt because of their deep faith in God. Other couples who were infertile were celebrating the opportunity to complete their families through adoption. One family, the Dehners, were using adoption to formalize a blending of two families that had been going on for a few years.
“I adopted Jake when he was 10 months old,” explained George Dehner. “My wife at that time passed away before the placement, so I adopted him as a single father. Then, a few years later, I met my present wife, Judy, who was a widow, with children of her own, when we met. Today, Judy is adopting Jake so that she will become his legal mother.”
Jake was beaming.
“I have been in his life for a few years, and I’ve been ‘Mom’ for a while now,” said Judy Dehner, who also was beaming. The family confirmed that Judy Dehner is the only mom Jake has known.
Prompted by a deep faith
The Canna family of North Brunswick had a different story to tell. Parents Juana and Anthony have have a biological son, Alexander, but they wanted more children. Mrs. Canna said they were motivated to choose adoption by their Christian faith. Working with an international adoption agency, they have welcomed two young boys into their family — Luke, who came from China, and Gian, who came from the Philippines. Mrs. Canna said Luke’s adoption process has taken about three years, while Gian’s took about one. Both were formally completed Wednesday.
Another couple with a biological child who chose to adopt were the Gonzales family of Perth Amboy. Osilis Gonzales and his wife, Sylvia Soto, have a daughter together named Janellus, who is 9. After Janellus was born, the Gonzaleses had another child who died at 2 months. That loss, coupled with their deep faith in God, prompted the Gonzaleses to turn to the Division of Child Protective and Permanency office in Middlesex County to adopt.
Soto explained that before an adoption is finalized, the child must live with the parents for many months, during which time the biological family can ask for him or her back. In the Gonzaleses’ case, Child Protective and Permanency placed seven children with them, all of whom were reclaimed by their biological families.
“It was very hard,” Soto said, “but we got through it. And now we have Jacob. He was our eighth placement, and it has been pretty smooth. We’ve had him for about 17 months. I still can’t believe it.”
She said the other children they had fostered ranged from newborns to 5 years old. Jacob is 18 months. After Jacob was placed with the Gonzales family, Soto had a girl, Gianna, who is now a year old.
“I think adoption is great,” she said. “It completes us as a human being and a family. We’re beyond happy.”
To prove it, the Gonzaleses showed up at the Adoption Day celebration wearing family T-shirts that spelled out Jacob’s name, and they were surrounded by at least 10 friends and relatives wearing bright blue “Team Jacob” T-shirts. One of the supporters was the Rev. Elba Soto, Sylvia Soto’s aunt and pastor of their church, The Church of the Living Water (La Iglesia Del Agua Viva).
All the way from Virginia
Dennis and Tara Carroll thought they would never have children because they weren’t conceiving, then Tara’s father met the niece of his first wife who had a relative who was pregnant who would be giving up her child for adoption. Tara Carroll got a call from her father about it, and working with agencies in New Jersey, where the baby was born, and Virginia, where the Carrolls lived, they were able to adopt the baby, whom they named Jack.
That was about nine years ago. Since then, Jack’s birth mother has had three more pregnancies, and the Carrolls adopted all of the children. They attended the Adoption Day ceremony to formalize the adoption of their daughter, Julia, who stole the show with her smiles. Tara Carroll said they will have some formalities to complete with Virginia authorities when they return home.
“It’s not a big deal. We’ve been through it before,” Tara. Carroll said. “It’s been a beautiful experience. And we are glad Jack’s adoption was an identified adoption because, otherwise, we would not have been able to adopt the other children.”
During the ceremony, before the adoptive families were served a continental breakfast and their adoptions were formalized, Nolan introduced a number of local dignitaries who are involved in the adoption process, as well as New Brunswick police Detective Michael Coppola, who was adopted from an orphanage in Colombia. Coppola spoke about what it was like for him to grow up knowing he was adopted.
“People often ask me if I want to find my birth parents,” he said. After explaining that his parents divorced and remarried and he has at least six adopted siblings from Korea, Italy, Poland and other countries, he said, “For me, my parents are my parents, the ones who raised me. I have enough parents.”
Others who spoke included Travis L. Francis, assignment judge of state Superior Court; Lisa Von Pier, assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families; and Deborah J. Venezia, the presiding judge in the Family Division of state Superior Court, who finalized the adoptions.
Each had a message of inspiration to share, but perhaps all were summarized by Von Pier, who said to the adoptive families, “It (adoption) is about what we share as family, how we grow together as family, what we feel in our hearts. You guys are a living and breathing example of a love that knows no bounds.”