It's not every day 11 foster children are adopted into six families. So the Anderson County Court of Law put on a party to celebrate the event Thursday.
More than 100 people attended: Attorneys, clerks, court reporters and coordinators, case workers, foster parents, volunteers, new adoptive children, family members, and friends.
The cases of all six families sped through court in an hour. Sitting at an antique table atop a performance stage, Judge Jeff Doran thanked each adopting family, as well as the dozens of others who cared for the children during the year or more they were in the court system.
The multi-family adoption event, celebrated inside the recreation hall at First United Methodist Church in Palestine, took on a carnival theme. Members of the Sea Scouts, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Child Protective Services (CPS), and Anderson County employees coordinated the event.
Many of the families adopted more than one child, and most already had biological children.
Five of the children were adopted by three families: Two from Lufkin and one from Jasper.
Derek and Katie Garrison of Lufkin, who have two boys, ages 10 and 13, welcomed their new daughter, 8, to the family. The new sister will live apart from her two brothers and two younger sisters, but the parents live close enough to keep the siblings in touch as they grow up.
“We've all become one big extended family,” Garrison said.
Lindsey and Reggie Coker of Palestine adopted three girls, ages 1, 2, and 3, expanding their family to six children. Lindsey Coker originally wanted to provide only foster care to the three sisters, but changed her mind when their biological mother asked the couple to adopt her children.
“We felt that was the Lord's way of showing us this was the path He wanted us to take,” Coker said.
The three older children, ages 9 and up, took turns holding the children, clinging tightly while trying to bury their heads. Coker said parenting the brood has challenged the couple since they began caring for the girls in May; the older children participate in sports. “Every day is a whirlwind,” she said.
Holly and JR Wansley of Elkhart adopted 1-year-old Jacob Thursday. Jacob is their second child, but also the younger brother of Caleb, 3. The two brothers have now been adopted into the same family. The parents were joined by more than a dozen family members at the event.
“That's what the foster system was meant to be,” Holly said. “It really does take a village.”