Months of anticipation became a well of emotions for Jennifer Coon of Burleson on Friday.
Four hundred and fifteen days ago, a blond-haired, blue-eyed baby boy entered the lives of Coon, her husband, Christopher, and their “fur babies,” 17-year-old Ernie, a Jack Russell terrier, and 15-year-old Sundance, a rat terrier. What was different about Friday?
That baby boy, Colton, would officially become their son and go home with them as their forever child. Colton, 23 months, is one of 20 children, most under the age of 10, adopted in ceremonies during the eighth annual Denton County Adoption Day on Friday.
“[I’m] excited. I try not to cry tears of joy. It’s just wonderful,” Jennifer Coon would say as she wiped away a tear just 20 minutes before entering a courtroom at the Denton County Courts Building to make her son’s adoption official. “Whew!
“We’ve waited so long for this day. We are beyond happy, excited.”
The Denton County Bar Association, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Denton County and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services partner to host Denton County Adoption Day. Several attorneys represent the families petitioning for adoptions pro bono, and a state grant obtained by CASA covers filing fees for the families. Most children adopted during the event have been in state custody because of traumatic situations, and in most cases the case record for the child is sealed after the adoption is finalized, officials say.
On Friday, the second floor of the Denton County Courts Building was transformed into a Dr. Seuss carnival of sorts. An arch of multicolored balloons in the courthouse’s foyer led families up the stairwell to a bustling second floor. Bright-colored, wonky potted decorations, images of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go and The Cat in the Hat and quotes from some of his books greeted guests reaching the top of the stairs.
Inside the jury services room was a waiting area where families and well-wishers stood by for their adoption to be called up. Inside the room was a spread of food and refreshments, colorfully decorated tables for congregating, face painting and children’s games such as bean bag toss, Twister and bowling.
Inside the courtroom where the adoptions took place, stuffed animals, large and small, covered the railings and floor for adopted children to take home with them. Most finalized adoptions were received with applause, tears shed and multiple pictures.
Families received a Dr. Seuss bag with toys and other goodies to take home, and the Denton Quilt Guild gave the families quilts.
Attorney J.B. Bailey represented the Coon family Friday. It was his first time to take part in Denton County Adoption Day, an event that meant a lot to a friend who recently died. Bailey said he was excited to be involved and give back to the community.
“To me, it’s great,” Bailey said. “So often we’re in court for unpleasant things. This is a day in court where everything is happy.”
At 9 months old, Colton, who was living in Justin, came to live with Jennifer and Christopher Coon. The boy’s birth parents, one of whom is a relative to the couple, struggled to provide for him, and he was placed with the couple by Child Protective Services, Jennifer Coon said.
The couple, married six years now, had considered fostering a child and one day adopting. Then Colton came. He was the life-changing experience that brought “joy and happiness,” albeit some sleepless nights, to the couple’s life, she said.
“It’s been a wonderful journey,” Coon said. “He was the missing puzzle piece to our family. We just wanted a child for so long.”
Nicki Passons, an adoption case worker for Colton, testified before the court Friday that she was thrilled to see the adoption occur.
“I know that they love Colton,” she said. “He is in a good home, and we’re happy for this day.”
As Colton, wearing jeans, brown cowboy boots and a long-sleeved shirt that read “Officially a Coon,” wielded a blue balloon shaped like a sword and ran throughout the courtroom, his soon-to-be parents stood side by side Friday, hands clasped together. They testified before Margaret Barnes, the 367th Judicial District Court judge, that they affirmed that they understood they would receive the same rights to Colton as any parent would for a biological child.
Much like what’s witnessed in a wedding ceremony, they made a promise to forever love and care for the child.
Christopher Coon summed up the moment in one word: “Fantastic.”
It was the beginning of a new life not only for the couple but for their son, Colton.
“[This] will be something we’ll celebrate every year in addition to his birthday,” Jennifer Coon said.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.