SAN JOSE -- People don't usually land in court unless they're accused of doing something wrong, getting a divorce or being sued. But some Santa Clara County judges took a break from the sad and tragic Friday to approve adoptions for three dozen grateful families.
The staid halls of the downtown courthouse rang with the squeals of gleeful children, many wearing their spiffiest velvet dresses and, in the case of one of the boys, a little purple pinstriped suit. Instead of being filled with frazzled people lugging bulging briefcases, the lobby was brightened by a sea of bobbing red balloons.
"This is truly one of the court's most special and joyous days of the year," said Presiding Judge Brian C. Walsh. "The overwhelming excitement and pure happiness that comes from the starting of so many families is palatable."
Adoptions are usually private matters, but the courts and county Social Services Agency joined together in recognition of National Adoption Day to increase public awareness of the need for more safe, permanent homes. Most of the 48 children adopted Friday were in the foster care system. Some 400,000 other children in the foster care system nationwide are waiting to be adopted.
Many of Friday's adoptees had lived with their families for years, but were still delighted to make the connection official.
"They have both always truly been my parents," said Fernanda Robles Juarez, of Los Altos, who was adopted by her mother's husband and became Fernanda Kramer. "But it's important to us to have the same last name."
For one San Jose family, adopting children is a tradition dating back nearly seven decades to World War II. The family of Kent and Tawnya and their biological son asked that their last name not be used for fear the birth parents of the kids they're adopting might try to track the children down.
Tawnya herself was adopted from South Korea. Now she and her husband are adopting four young siblings as their own children.
"We didn't plan to adopt four, it just happened," said Kent, an Apple engineer. "Luckily, we're in the financial position to take in a family group."
At first, their biological son asked when the others were leaving, Kent said. But now, he would be devastated if they went away, said Tawnya, a physician at a county clinic.
Single mom Honey Gregory of San Jose also adopted four children -- two last year and two on Friday. All of them are her grandkids, but she's not "grandma," she's "mama" to them.
Gregory never intended to take on a whole new family at age 58 after rearing three of her own.
"It's the love, the unconditional love they give you that makes it worth it," she said.
She urged other African-American families to adopt.
"People don't want to do it because they think it's hard," she said, "but it's really not."
Morgan Hill police officer Greg Dini and his wife Jeanette have an 8-year-old biological son, Thomas. But Jeanette said she had three miscarriages after that, so two years ago, they brought 7-year-old Andrey from Siberia into their family.
"Then we felt God call to us to adopt another child," Jeanette said.
Thomas said he named his 1-year-old baby sister "Clara" last year -- after Santa Clara.
Many families praised the judges for handling the adoptions with sensitivity. Each family squeezed into the judge's chambers for the brief ceremony, trailed by a raft of relatives, social workers, a court reporter and clerk.
One judge, Julia Alloggiamento, took pains to reach out to Jennifer Davis' biological child, telling the little boy he would play a critical role in his new brother's life.
"I asked her if she minded doing these" adoptions, Los Altos resident Davis said, "and she said, 'No, it's the best day of the whole year in the courts.'"
Santa Clara County residents interested in becoming foster parents or adoptive parents can call 408-299-KIDS
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport