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Children find permanent families at adoption event

Posted on Tuesday, November 21, 2017 at 9:13 am

By Rachel Christian
Staff Writer
The Osceola County Courthouse was packed Friday afternoon as eight respective families were unified both legally and emotionally at an annual National Adoption Day event.
Each year, courthouses across the United States take part in National Adoption Day,

News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock
Paul Joshua Mullins gives his new mother a big hug after officially being adopted.

an event created to bring awareness to the adoption and foster care system.
Superheroes were the theme of this year’s event. The bright colors and flowing capes were meant to remind attendees of the strength many children in foster care process.
“Real superheroes live in the hearts of children who have fought big battles,” said Katria Jenkins, executive director of Community Based Care of Central Florida. “Our children who are being adopted today may have fought huge battles, and in spite of it all, they have obtained new warm and loving homes.”
Judge Patricia Stowbridge served as the day’s guest speaker. Stowbridge transitioned to the bench two years ago after an extensive career in the family and juvenile courts system.
Stowbridge adopted several of her own children, and said the issue of adoption is close to her heart.
“These kids have become very important to me,” she said. “I’m so glad to see them finally have their forever families.”
The Mullins were the first of the day’s eight families to undergo the legal proceedings inside a fourth floor courtroom. Diane and Fred Mullins were surrounded by an outpouring of support from friends and family as Stowbridge made the husband and wife legal guardians to their nine-year-old son, Paul Joshua, or “PJ” for short.
The Mullins chose to adopt PJ at an age when many couples are becoming grandparents. The Mullins have five biological children, and their oldest son is a foster parent in St. Cloud. That’s how Diane and Fred met PJ earlier this year.
“He just had such a sweet, intelligent demeanor,” said Diane, a registered nurse. “Our son had already adopted a child and was PJ’s foster parent, so we began thinking about it as well after we met him.”
Diane and her husband may be older than many parents undergoing the adoption process for the first time, but they have more than enough of what really mattered – love for a child exiting the foster system after years of difficult experiences.
“We didn’t really see ourselves going through adoption at our age,” said Fred Mullins, an Army veteran. “But after we met PJ in May and got to know him…we just felt like he was reaching out to us. We felt like he loved us and we could do this.”
Forty-five children ranging in age from toddlers to teens were united with their new parents in legal ceremonies across Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties Nov. 17. Approximately 140 children are currently in the tri-county foster care system and available for adoption.
National Adoption Day began in 2000 as a collective effort between policymakers, child welfare leaders and advocates to bring awareness to the thousands of children nationwide searching for permanent homes outside the foster care system. More than 100,000 kids across the United States have since been adopted thanks to the event.