Across the country, courts held special ceremonies on Saturday to finalize adoptions for families on National Adoption Day.
National Adoption Day is held every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to help raise awareness about kids in foster care, according to the National Adoption Day Coalition.
At Roanoke County Circuit Court, 16-month-old Dakota was dressed up for the occasion.
“If you really care about other people, this is probably one of the greatest things you can do,” said Paula Fitzgerald, who attended the Roanoke City and County adoption ceremony.
With a judge’s signature, Dakota was officially adopted as Fitzgerald’s son.
“Honestly, I woke up three years ago, and I was like, ‘oh, God, I want to have a kid,’ and I didn’t really know as a single person what the best route to do that was,” Fitzgerald explained.
After exploring several options, Fitzgerald decided to become a foster parent. Once Dakota had been at home with Fitzgerald for six months, she could officially begin the process of adoption.
“I hate to sound corny – it was kind of love at first sight, you know?” she said. “When I saw him, and I knew he was probably going to be mine forever, it just was, ‘Yup, he’s my kid, for sure.'”
“There’s just a love between them that I’ve never seen her have before,” said Fitzgerald’s sister and Dakota’s new aunt, Leigh.
Leigh Fitzgerald said fostering and adoption are entirely new for her family. She said she and her husband are now considering becoming foster parents.
“I would really love to bring a child into our household and to give them a loving a home and give them a chance that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Leigh Fitzgerald said.
“I just encourage people – if you’re thinking about it, do it,” Paula Fitzgerald said. “Because dreams come true, right? Here we are.”
Two other adoptions were finalized at the Roanoke City and County National Adoption Day ceremony. According to Roanoke County officials, adoptions have also been finalized at other times of the year.
There are more than 100,000 foster children in the United States waiting to be adopted, according to the National Adoption Day Coalition.
If you are considering adoption and want to become a foster parent, Roanoke County officials encourage you to contact your local social services department.