On Friday, the lives of 52 children will change forever as Tarrant County celebrates National Adoption Day.
Last year's event was canceled, so this year's event will be the first time in two years that families will go through formal court proceedings together in person.
After the papers are signed, families will be honored in a celebration with courthouse workers, CASA of Tarrant County volunteers, and other community organizations.
“We are excited to be celebrating Tarrant County’s 20th anniversary of National Adoption Day, which has seen more than 1,200 children adopted to date into loving families,” Judge Jesus Nevarez of the 231st District Court said in a statement. “Numerous county departments and volunteers have devoted countless hours to make this day each year a very special event, and it reminds us each time that the need for forever families is as great as ever."
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The moment will signify a crucial moment in their lives, including the Gray family of Alvarado.
Brittany, a teacher, and her husband, Thomas knew they wanted kids but specifically wanted to adopt so that they could help change the life of a child in need of a home.
“I said, 'Why don’t we just go ahead and start fostering?' I was teaching from home, let’s make it happen,” Brittany recounted.
After getting married at the start of the pandemic, they immediately launched into the process to become foster parents.
In fall 2020, they were brought not one, but two, children to foster – siblings Mason and Maddie, who entered the system due to neglect.
“They are the best thing to ever happen to us. They’ve just been a blessing,” said Brittany. “We hoped that they would become available for adoption. We waited and waited. The moment we heard they were able to be adopted, we jumped on it. We were so excited.”
The family has bonded in the year since and on Friday they will make the adoption official.
But Brittany said from the moment she met the kids, she knew it was fate.
“They have called us mom and dad since hour one. And we knew from hour one that they came in and we wanted them,” she said. “It feels like it's just kind of surreal at this point. They're finally going to be ours."
CASA of Tarrant County said the pandemic has taken a toll on the foster care system.
At the start of 2020, there was a surge in child abuse emergency room visits and child welfare removals in Tarrant County.
CASA volunteers have had to do a lot of their work virtually for the 18 months.
As their mission to help support foster children through the system returns to normal, they're looking for volunteers.
“We have probably 500 kids in the system right now that do not have volunteers so we are always looking for volunteers. We would love to have the community folks step up,” said Don Binnicker, CEO of CASA Tarrant County. “Particularly men volunteers, half of the kids in care are boys and they haven’t had a lot of positive male role models. We’re also looking for minority volunteers.”
At least today, 52 children will get to go home as official members of their forever families.
But there are still about 2,000 children in the foster care system right now in Tarrant County.
In fact, the Gray family recently took in another foster child as the work to support children continues.
Information sessions on how to become a CASA volunteer or learn more about the foster care system are coming up. Click here to register.