Their stories are different, but baby Felix Shope, sisters Sabrina and Savannah Preston, little Maddie Davis and a dozen other children adopted Friday all share something special — a great gift.
“You’re giving the greatest gift you can possibly give, a family, a home and a future,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers told new and second-time parents during a National Adoption Day event at the county courthouse.
Sixteen children officially became part of “13 loving families,” Somers said.
“Most things that go on in our courtroom are not all that joyful,” Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz told Kellie and David Preston before presiding over the Everett couple’s adoption of their granddaughters.
Savannah, 4, and 7-year-old Sabrina “have been with us on and off their whole lives,” said Kellie Preston, who has worked as a marriage and family therapist.
David Preston, a Boeing employee, held up both hands and said he’s a “two-ring guy.” His wife explained that before the adoption, she got down on a knee and asked if he would commit to raising their granddaughters. And she gave him a ring, which he wears like a wedding band but on his right hand.
In their 50s, the Prestons said they are approaching retirement even as they again embrace parenthood.
Their 29-year-old son, Adrian Preston, and his wife, Kellsie, were in the courtroom with other family members for the momentous day.
It’s a next-generation adoption for his parents and a complicated family story.
Adrian Preston said that in 1991, when he was 3, he was adopted from Romania by David and Kellie Preston, who are now in their 50s. They also adopted another child from Romania. The little girls his parents adopted Friday are also his nieces.
“It’s kind of cool,” said Adrian Preston, who now has his own son.
Josh and Alicia Shope, of Edmonds, became first-time parents with the adoption of 5-month-old Felix. Josh Shope, 34, knew a family attorney in North Carolina who connected the couple to an agency in Georgia that helped arrange for Felix’s adoption. It’s an open adoption, and he and Alicia, 33, were in Georgia for the birth.
Felix was born prematurely and spent time in a neonatal intensive care unit, “but he’s perfectly healthy,” his new mom said Friday. Felix has been with the Edmonds couple, who both work in real estate, nearly since birth.
“You were there at the beginning,” said Kurtz, noting the Shopes’ paperwork. “What have you enjoyed the most?”
“Just everything,” Alicia Shope said. With parenting, the judge answered, “there are many joys, and there are many challenges as well.”
It wasn’t the first National Adoption Day for Chauntelle and Miker Davis. On Nov. 20, 2015, the Arlington couple, who already had two grown children, adopted three siblings. Those children, Kalionna, Kierra and Kale, are now 11, 9 and 7.
“This is the best Christmas present in the whole world,” Chauntelle Davis told Judge Kurtz two years ago.
On Friday, with Superior Court Judge George Bowden presiding, the Davises adopted 5-year-old Maddie, with the older kids watching. “Maddie was with us when we adopted our three, and got to watch us adopt them,” Chauntelle Davis said. “It’s now full circle two years later. This time she was the one who got to be adopted, and was so excited.”
Social worker Heidi Pless, an adoption specialist with the state Department of Social and Health Services in Mount Vernon, accompanied the Davis family Friday, just as she did two years ago. The Arlington couple said Maddie’s biological family was also with them to celebrate. One man in their big group held up a sign that said “Davis Family Forever.”
“At the end with the judge, Maddie said it was the best day ever,” Chauntelle Davis said.
Adoption Day isn’t all courtroom formality. Judges wear colorful leis, let kids pound a gavel, and instruct parents to take their families out for ice cream. “What flavor do you like?” Bowden asked after approving one adoption. “Strawberry,” a little girl answered.
Somers, Kurtz and David Ellingson, a former Trinity Lutheran College professor, spoke during a brief Adoption Day program. This was the 13th year for the local event, co-sponsored by the Superior Court and the County Clerk’s Office.
“It’s a good day,” said Edmonds attorney Mark Demaray, who specializes in adoptions and worked with the Preston and Shope families. Demaray said that in 35 years he has been involved in nearly 5,000 adoptions, “including two of our own.”
The Adoption Day program — with refreshments and balloons, Webbly the Everett AquaSox mascot, and gentle therapy dogs that help children involved in court cases — had its lighthearted moments. One girl was spotted leading Webbly around by his big cloth hand.
Along with creating forever families, the day has another serious purpose. It calls attention to the great need for stable, loving homes. Nationally, Somers said, more than 100,000 children are in foster care. In Snohomish County, there are some 1,300 foster kids, hundreds of them legally free to be adopted.
“Sometimes it’s a lengthy journey through the court system, with caseworkers and attorneys,” Kurtz said. “We are so grateful for those adoptive and foster parents.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.