Eight-year-old Melissa had been counting down the days until June 25. Little X’s marked her calendar, leading up to a big red circle drawn in excitement. She knew there would be a big party for her on that day, but it wouldn’t be for her birthday.
“After our two children went to college, we thought we were done raising children,” said Debbie Defour, Melissa’s new adoptive mother. “We never thought we would raise another family. But we’ve adopted four since then, and when we first took Melissa in, we just knew she was going to be part of our family.”
Debbie and her husband, Joseph, have made fostering-to-adopting a lifestyle and are active members of the Osceola County Foster Parent Association. On Melissa’s red-circle day, she became their fifth adopted child – and Family Services of Metro Orlando’s 1,000th adoption.
But they were not the only ones celebrated. As the Defour family waited in a packed courtroom, 17 other Osceola County families also finalized their own adoptions of 22 children.
Judge Margaret T. Waller presided over the ceremony that placed the children with their new families. “It’s always a joyous occasion when a new family is created through adoption,” said Judge Waller. “The 1,000th adoption is a joyous occasion the entire community can celebrate.”
Osceola County School Board Member Jay Wheeler opened the ceremony, followed by comments from Saint Cloud City Councilman and mayoral candidate Jay Polachek and Osceola County Chairman Fred Hawkins.
Afterward, many of the families gathered with their case managers to do just that. Family Services of Metro Orlando then decorated the Jury Room of the Osceola County Courthouse to honor and celebrate not only the milestone its 1,000th adoption, but the unforgettable milestone in each of these family’s lives.
Debbie and her husband, Joseph, had been excited for the day as well. “[Family Services of Metro Orlando] has provided all the support we need to go through with our adoptions,” said Debbie.
Family Services of Metro Orlando is the lead agency for community based care in Orange and Osceola counties. The non-profit organization coordinates services to families in need such as foster care, adoption and youth mentoring. This month’s adoptions in Osceola County were coordinated in partnership with Youth and Family Services, Children’s Home Society, Osceola County Guardians ad Litem, the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida, Children’s Legal Services, the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
During each of the past six years Family Services of Metro Orlando, together with its partners, has set new records for annual adoptions. There have been 219 adoptions during the 2009-2010 fiscal year, surpassing the 202 adoptions in the previous year.