Families become official at mass adoption
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Pilar Perez officially became a mother for the fourth time Friday afternoon.
But her latest venture into motherhood did not occur from her giving birth.
Perez and her husband, Kenneth, finalized the adoption of 2-year-old Ethan at Child Protective Services' second Mass Adoption Day Ceremony at the Victoria County Courthouse.
"I think God sends people to this world to give birth to these children so people like us, who can't conceive naturally or who can't give birth to these kids, can have kids," said the mother, 34. "Knowing God placed him with us is a blessing."
The Perezes were one of eight families who participated in the event, during which 15 children were adopted.
District Judge Robert C. Cheshire officiated the ceremony.
Although the adoptions were finalized on Friday, all of the children had been living with their adoptive families for at least six months prior to the ceremony, and all of their adoption paperwork was started within the past year.
"The children have been waiting for a forever family for months, and this is the culmination of that time. They've waited and permanency has been achieved," said Deborah North, a CPS program director for foster and adoption.
She said Friday was also a chance for the agency to tell families of the need for more adoptive parents.
"We have a number of children who desire a family and want and deserve one."
North estimated there were about 500 children in Region 8, which includes 28 counties including Victoria, who are waiting to be adopted.
In many adoption cases, including those at Friday's ceremony, about 50 percent of the children are adopted by relatives, said North.
"Relatives are good families to adopt children because they can maintain a family connection, and in many instances, they already have a relationship with the children they are adopting," said North.
A love for their nephew is what brought the Phillip Duderstadt family to the ceremony.
"(Mark) is my nephew. I love him," said Phillip Duderstadt, 33. "It took a long time to get here, but I'm glad we did it."
Mark was equally pleased.
"I think it's great, said the 13-year-old. "I'm glad it happened today and not later."
Although the Perezes are not related to Ethan, they said the connection they felt for him mirrored the connection they felt for their biological children.
Ethan came into the Perezes' lives in March 2009 when he was 4-months-old, days after the family had returned from a vacation at Disney World.
The Perezes, who have served as foster parents to several children for the past seven years, got a call that Ethan needed a foster family.
At the time, the Perezes only had their one biological son, Caleb, who is now 4.
Caleb's older siblings, who were both born with serious medical problems, had already died, their mother said. She was advised to not have any more biological children due to her chances of another high risk pregnancy.
Ethan lived with the Perezes as their foster child from March 2009 until Nov. 2009.
After which time, Ethan's birth mother, who Pilar understood to be a teen mom, reclaimed him.
Ethan's return to his birth mother left a hole in the Perezes hearts, said Pilar.
"Even though we knew there was a possibility the mom would come back, you still bond with the child," she said. "Anytime a child leaves, you wonder what they are doing and if they are doing OK."
Two months after his departure, however, the Perez family got a phone call saying Ethan's mother was terminating her parental rights, and he needed a foster family once again.
"I said the only way we could take him back is if we could adopt him," the mother said.
CPS granted the family's wish, and in March the Perezes started the paperwork to adopt Ethan.
"I feel like he is a part of the family," said the father, 35. "It's kind of like closure."
So far, things have been going well for the newly finalized family.
"We wanted a brother or sister for (Caleb)," the stay-at-home mom said. "He officially got a brother today."
She added, "They get along really well. They fight together and play together."
Although Pilar and Kenneth said they consider Ethan to be their son, they said they will tell him he is adopted when he gets old enough to understand.
"It's really important that he knows his background and where he's from," his mother said. "I don't want him growing up shielded from where he came from."
The Perezes said they do plan to adopt more children, if their sons agree to it.
"I don't know how many more we will adopt. We are going to give these two a little bit more time to bond," said the boys' mother. "Once they are older, if they agree to it, then we will continue."