(KCEN) - Thirteen families in Bell County officially got a little bigger Thursday; some of them, a lot bigger.
It's all due to the fifth-annual Adoption Day at the Bell County Justice Center. More than two dozen kids legally found new homes, but they were already a part of the family.
It was all smiles in the 146th District Court Thursday morning.
Wonderetta Croon officially adopted four kids.
"It's hard not to fall in love with them," she said.
They're her biological grandkids. Family issues led to the adoptions. This is motherhood, round two.
"It just means a lifetime of opportunity of four blessings that God has added to my life," Croon said.
And they're are just four of the 27 blessings 13 families received in the courthouse.
"It's been a struggle," said Nina Villa, "but we made it and we're here and we're done."
Again, it was family problems that led her to adopt her three nieces.
"I want to live with my mommy forever," the oldest, 6-year-old Keichell, said as she clutched her new legal mother's hand.
Days like this happen all over the country. They're responsible for closing 48,000 adoptions nationwide since they started 13 years ago.
"It really touches my heart because I was adopted myself," said Charlotte Hopmann of the Department of Family and Protective Services, "so it holds a very special place in my heart."
But Adoption Day is just the last step for these parents, who, in some cases, have bonded with these kids for years.
"They were my children when I got them and now it's just nobody can take them from me," Villa said.
Thirteen families grow in size, and in love.
"I was going to go back to work, but I don't think I'm going to do that," Croon said. "I think I'm going to enjoy the day with my kids."
Their first day as a family under the law.
Sharon Shirley was also at the courthouse Thursday. She has a new son.
"This is my little miracle baby here," she said.
Christian is 5. He suffers from chronic lung disorder, among a number of other medical issues. He's the second special needs child Shirley has adopted, and she fosters a third.
"These kids need a home. And I need these kids," Shirley said. "Just a lot of love to give and to receive."
"If I could do this all day every day, I would be in heaven," Judge Jack Jones told the adoptive parents.
One by one, they approached the bench, and made it official.
All the new families walked down a yellow brick road in the courtroom and right up to a cut-out of Dorothy. A sign in front of the judge read "There's no place like home."
They walked out all smiles. Then their first family portrait, and gifts and snacks.
"We don't have to deal with CPS anymore and we can live our lives," Villa said.
Many of those adopted Thursday are sibling groups. They can be some of the hardest to place.
"I probably would've put up a fight all the way to be able to keep them all together," said Croon.
Teenagers and special needs kids are also hard to find homes for, one reason moms like Sharon are a blessing to the foster care system.
"These kids were placed where they're supposed to be," she said.
And according to the state, they're supposed to be full fledged Shirleys.
There are still roughly 6,500 kids in the foster care system in Texas.
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