In a courtroom filled with so many stuffed animals that E.T. could have hidden in the jury box, the family of Maria and Daniel Ramirez grew by one Friday morning.
The Sanger couple, already the parents of three of their own, adopted their 11-year-old niece, Joann Barron. Joann’s adoption was one of 22 adoptions Friday as Denton County celebrated National Adoption Day.
During a brief hearing, Maria and Daniel Ramirez told the court they understood that adoption was a promise to love Joann “and keep her forever and ever.”
Joann knew that the judge would ask her whether she wanted to be adopted. When District Judge Steve Burgess asked her how she felt about being adopted, she said, “Happy.”
Maria and Daniel Ramirez told the judge they wanted Joann to keep her mother’s — who is Maria Ramirez’s sister — last name. Now, Christian, 12, will be her older brother — by four days. Friday was Christian’s birthday; Joann’s is Tuesday.
Gabriel, 10, will be her younger brother. Bethany, 7, became a younger sister, again, but she said that was OK.
The Denton County Bar Association has sponsored the annual adoption event since 2008, with participating attorneys donating their services, according to lawyer Tiffany Haertling. With volunteer help from the community and University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University students, they transformed not only three courtrooms on the second floor but also the jury assembly room, lawyer Lee Ann Breading said.
In a cruise ship-like atmosphere, the children took a “passport” around the room and got it stamped as they spent time with Panda, a Norwegian elkhound and therapy dog, or watched as a clown twisted balloons into the shape of a dog they could take home. They got a head start on drawing their family tree in a scrapbook and picked up a goodie bag of dental supplies before heading to the snack table. They also got to pick out a book and handmade quilt from the Denton Quilt Guild.
After Joann’s adoption, the Ramirez family got its first portrait taken. The boys flanked their parents as the girls, Bethany and Joann, sat in the center.
Walter Eagleton, who has donated his services for adoption day since the project began, adjusted Christian’s glasses before looking in the viewfinder.
“Oh, you are looking good,” Eagleton said. “You guys are ready.”
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of children adopted Friday: 22
Court-appointed special advocates: 15
Other volunteers: 120
Attorneys: More than 40
Therapy dog: One