Mary-Lou and Donnie Alvarez opened their doors and hearts last week and officially welcomed the two newest additions to their family.
The couple from San Marcos adopted a pair of siblings, who were already members of their family.
Providing a loving home to children in need is a tradition that is close to the Alvarez family’s hearts.
“We are here to adopt my second cousins,” Mary-Lou said. “My husband and I are very excited to be here today because this is my second time adopting, but my son is already in the Army and out in the world.”
The pair has fostered the two little ones for about seven months, which is a lot less time than children typically spend in foster care, Mary-Lou said.
“This is a great thing to do because there’s a lot of kids out there who do need homes and a lot of them don’t know how to go about it either,” she said.
The couple was joined by nearly a dozen families that celebrated National Adoption Awareness Month during a special adoption ceremony held at Texas Lutheran University in the Student Activity Center.
Centex Child Protection Court South Associate Judge Thomas Stuckey presided over the adoptions of more than 20 children on Nov. 25.
“We truly enjoy doing this every year, helping families to become permanent with long term stability, so it’s a great day for everybody,” Stuckey said.
Department of Family Protective Services Adoption Supervisor Roxi Gearhart said the event is meant to spread awareness of child adoption and is an honorary send-off to families who have taken part in the process for quite some time.
“If you look around here today, you see not only happiness but relief because they get to move on now,” DFPS Adoption Supervisor Roxi Gearhart said. “There’s not going to be any more child protective services or caseworkers coming into their homes. I think everybody knows we are here to do good with these children and families, but we are still a disruption in their daily lives, so it is also a celebration of families coming together.”
New Braunfels resident Paul Mata said the event was a great way to welcome his family’s newest members.
“We’re here today, adopting my niece and nephew,” Mata said. “We’re happy to finally make it here. We’re over two years strong trying to go through the adoption process. The kids are out of Harris County, which is what made it so hard to bring them to Guadalupe County. It was longer than it should have been, but it was definitely worth it.”
Mata said the celebration is an ice-breaker for an otherwise nerve-wracking process.
“It’s always great that they put this together every year for families and everybody to do it all at one time,” he said. “It makes everyone more comfortable instead of feeling nervous. To adopt, you really need to be strong enough to take in all types of kids, and you basically need love because every kid needs love.”
Members of Lonestar Social Services donned the garb of famed heroes like Batman and Superman.
“We help by coming and dressing up as superheroes, and we also have made individual baskets for each family that was adopting,” Region 7 Lonestar Social Services Supervisor Rebecca Mercer said. “Each year, we just try to help out in any way that we can with each county that has adoption day. The kids really love the costumes. They all have their own favorite character, and this year it seems to be Spiderman. Each child will pick out their favorite character, and they like to come take pictures and interact with us.”
Although adopting a child can be lengthy with various waiting periods, the thorough nature of the process is necessary to ensure the best outcome and best guardian for the child, Gearhart said.
“The kids here today have probably been in the home minimally 12 to 18 months,” Gearhart said. “Others are placed with foster families for at least six months before we can consummate an adoption. The child’s biological family has 12 months to make the necessary changes to have their kids reunified with them. There are extenuating circumstances that can bump that out for another six months and sometimes longer. So most of the children here today have been with these families for up to two years.”
More than 6,000 children were placed in forever homes over the past fiscal year, according to DFPS.