New families formed during National Adoption Day

Patrick and Amanda O’Neill, of Tucker, used a private agency to adopt Morgan, 20 months old, from China. The couple plans to adopt again next year. Photo by Andrew Cauthen

The courtroom of Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams was decorated with balloons and teddy bears as children yelled and played Nov. 16.

The children, more than 30 of them accompanied by their parents, were at the courthouse for DeKalb County’s second observance of National Adoption Day, an event that brings awareness to the need for more adoptive parents.

“It’s just wonderful to see all the beautiful families here,” said Debra DeBerry, DeKalb County’s clerk of Superior Court, who started the DeKalb event last year.

“Adoptions are probably the greatest thing we do in this office,” DeBerry said. “It’s a joyous and happy occasion to provide a warm, nurturing home for a child who doesn’t have one.”

DeBerry said there are more than 1,000 children waiting to be adopted in DeKalb County. Nationally, 4,500 adoptions were expected to take place on adoption day.

“Our purpose is not only to celebrate the families who have joyously opened their hearts and opened their homes to provide a family for a child, but to also bring recognition to the event and to urge others to consider doing the same,” she said.

“Families that adopt children are special people,” DeBerry said. “There’s no greater love and service that a family can do than to adopt a child. It’s a beautiful, wonderful thing.”

Patrick and Amanda O’Neill of Tucker, adopted Morgan, now 20 months old, from China.

“It’s been a very rewarding process,” Patrick O’Neill said. “We look forward to starting the process again next year.”

Patrick O’Neill offered advice to people considering adoption: “Definitely do your research. Definitely find an agency you believe in and feel good with and go for it. It’s been a wonderful journey.”

“It was love at first sight,” Amanda O’Neill said. “We don’t even think of her as adopted. She’s just our daughter.”

Devon and Dian Mott of Conyers finalized the adoptions of three DeKalb County children, Raven, 8; Justin, 6; and McKeithan, 5.

The Motts, who have been foster parents since 1996, worked with a private agency, Community Connection of Stone Mountain, during the adoption, which began in January.

“We love children,” Dian Mott said. “We have two grown children of our own. When these kids came into our home, we loved them so much we didn’t want them to go anywhere else. We just wanted them to be a part of our family.”

Justin said he was glad to be a part of the new family “because my mom can’t work with me—my other mom. So I went from house to house to house.”

During the adoption finalization, one by one each family was called into Judge Adams’ chambers where they were sworn in by an adoption attorney who questioned them to ensure they understood the adoption process.

“[Do] you understand that you have certain rights and obligations to the children—food, clothing, shelter, education, things that parents do for children?” asked Attorney Willie Hamilton. “You’re doing that already because they’re living in your house. You’re going to continue to do that.”

Judge Adams asked, “Mr. and Mrs. Mott, is there anything you want to tell me before I excecute the final judgment? You can’t turn back.”

After the couple said they had no questions, the judge said, “I grant your request. Congratulations. It is final.”

Adams, who spent several minutes posing for pictures with the new family, said, “We do adoptions year-round. It’s probably one the highlights of the things we do as a superior court judge—bringing families together. I was more than willing to do this because I think it’s very important to have families united so that children will have support. It’s just the right thing to do.

Adoptions generally take approximately a year, but can range from a few months to several years, Adams said.

“Some of the adoptive parents are adopting children with special needs,” Adams said. “That is a need within the greater community for people to step forward and help.

Adams said adoptive parents are to be commended.

“I’m doing the easy part—bringing them together and signing the legal documents,” he said. “They’re doing the real work—rolling up their sleeves and providing a loving home, safe environment, nurturing environment.”

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