BELLINGHAM - The Starkovich family grew by two Friday, Nov. 9, when Kamiya and Jebediah became the ninth and 10th children adopted into the Ferndale clan.
"We're so blessed. We just get up and say, 'Lord, what do you want us to do today?'" mom Lauri Starkovich said after the adoption ceremony.
The Starkovichs were among 20 families who finalized the adoptions of 23 children as part of the Whatcom County celebration of National Adoption Day.
The fifth annual celebration in the county brought friends and families to the fifth floor of the Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham for the happy occasion - amid children with cupcake frosting on their lips and bows in their hair, some clutching teddy bears or the fingers of their new siblings.
The event also is meant to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care who are waiting to find permanent, loving families, organizers said.
In Washington state, more than 2,837 are waiting to be adopted.
Not all of the children whose adoptions were finalized on Friday came through the foster care system, though.
Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder and Commissioner Martha Gross presided over the adoption hearings on Friday.
Carleen Polinder, a Lynden resident who helped organize the Friday event, said it was important for kids to find permanence and stability.
"It's a nice coming together of so many different people in our community to celebrate the common goal of adoption," said Polinder, who is part of an adoption support ministry called Hope 127. "It's just a happy day at the courthouse."
That happiness extended to Kurt and Lani Swanson, who adopted 3-year-old Jordan.
The Bellingham residents have three children together, ranging in age from 15 to 19 years old, while Kurt also has a 27 year-old-daughter. They also have four grandchildren.
Jordan has lived with them since she was 8 months old.
"She only knows us as her parents," Lani said.
On Friday, Jordan officially became part of the family.
"We feel like we made it to that place ... of knowing that she's ours," Lani said of the child the Swansons described as social, fearless and "likes to be in charge."
Jordan is the first child for whom they've served as foster parents. She's the first one they've adopted.
Lani said the couple's teenagers have benefited from being part of the foster care and adoption process.
And though they're in that stage of life where they're enjoying their grandchildren, Lani said, they feel that "having a young child is very natural and brings life again into the family home."
As for the Starkovich family, Lauri and husband Thomas began caring for foster children 22 years ago - Lauri said they couldn't have children together because she was infertile - and eight of the 10 children they've adopted have come through foster care.
The first two were adopted from Romania.
"We knew God had a different plan for us. We didn't know he had this big of a plan for us," Lauri said with a smile.
The children they've adopted now range in age from 27 years old to the two youngest and newest members - siblings Kamiya, 2, and Jebediah, 1.
Might there be more?
"Oh, I'm too old," Lauri said.
"She says that every time," daughter Paige Starkovich, 18, said teasingly while holding Jebediah.
Additional information on National Adoption Day is online at nationaladoptionday.org.
Reach KIE RELYEA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2234.