Siblings and teenagers among 11 children adopted in Chicago ceremony

Four-year-old Penelope “Missy” Stone, wearing a collared light blue dress and a wide smile, jumped up and down every few seconds in a Daley Center courtroom Friday morning, unable to keep still from excitement as she waited for the judge to call her up to the bench.

In a little more than a week, she would be celebrating her fifth birthday at Walt Disney World with her mother, she told the presiding judge. But first, the judge would be finalizing the young girl’s adoption by Ellen Williams, an employee with the Department of Child and Family Services who has been fostering Missy since she was born.

“We’re having a quiet dinner tonight then heading to Disney,” Williams said in the courtroom packed with dozens of people and even more stuffed animals.

Missy, now Missy Williams, was one of 11 children ranging from age 3 to 14 adopted into seven separate families in a public ceremony Friday. The children included a set of five siblings, all staying in the family they were born in, a set of siblings adopted by a couple and a teenage son adopted by his biological grandfather. Two more children were adopted in a private ceremony in a room next door.

Adoption advocates said there was extra cause for celebration at the ceremony because of the placement of two sets of siblings and two teenagers — two groups of foster children that can be more difficult to place into permanent homes.

Many prospective parents lean toward adopting newborns and shy away from adopting teenagers, said Cook County Circuit Judge Maureen Ward Kirby.

“You’re coming and meeting a child and they already have some of their life story already written,” Ward Kirby said of parents who adopt older children. “But you have a chance to write future chapters of that life story with them.”

Marcus Boni and Anthony Truscello were adopting biological siblings Joseph, 14, and Francis, 9, to become a family of four alongside their three pugs. Boni said Francis had a social life that kept all of them busy and that Joseph was a “much stronger man” than he was at that stage in life.

For Boni and Truscello, it was important that the arrangement worked just as well for their adopted children as it did for the two men since they said they recognized that not everyone wants two dads.

Joseph said he was settling into high school as a freshman and looking forward to the permanence after he and Francis were adopted.

“Not having to move around will be nice,” he said.

Ward Kirby, who presided over two of the cases, said adoptions were the “happiest days in court” but there is still a staggering need for adoptive parents.

Family members, attorneys and adoption professionals gathered at the event to raise awareness and encourage people to adopt if they are able to provide a stable home to a foster child. There are more than 113,000 children waiting to be adopted from foster care in the United States, according to the Cook County Court.

“If you can and have the capacity to adopt or foster, do it,” said Maria Nanos, CEO of Greenlight Family Services. Greenlight interacts with up to 6,000 people a year who are interested in fostering and worked one of the cases Friday.

Joy Copeland, 42, wiped away tears as the judge signed the adoption papers. When she walked out of the room, she would legally be the parent of her nephew Devante, 6, and niece Damoni, 5.

“I was crying because it’s just such a joy to be able to adopt my niece and nephew for a long time until they grow up,” Copeland said.

The grandmother of the siblings, Latonia Copeland, adopted Deante’, 9, D’lyiha, 8, and Dmari, 4, so the siblings could all remain in the same family. The two sisters live close to each other on the South Side, and the kids see each other nearly every day, they said.

Each of the Copeland children had their own way of showing excitement Friday. Damoni stole gleeful glances back to her siblings as the judge spoke. Deante broke out into a dance. D’lyiha eagerly raised her hand when asked who would be helping mom cook Thanksgiving dinner. All of them smiled proudly as they walked back to their seats to a round of applause.

Though the five of them can be a handful when they are together, their great aunt Joey Copeland said they like to keep them close to the family.

“It’s OK we are used to it,” she said, “because we are already a big family.”

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