These children found homes, and they have the teddy bears to prove it

Adoption is 'best thing I ever did,' says Bellingham mom

Three Bellingham families adopt kids at the Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham on National Adoption Day, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.
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Three Bellingham families adopt kids at the Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham on National Adoption Day, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.

Whatcom County Superior Courtroom 5B was filled with joy, smiles and more than a few teddy bears Friday as three children’s lives were changed forever. Three families each welcomed a new child into their homes and lives during Whatcom County’s 8th annual National Adoption Day celebration.

James Kozaczuk, 7, Isla Joy Morris, 2  1/2, and Jaydin Parker, 3, left the courthouse with their new families. Though the children have been living with their adopted parents for some time, the delight, excitement and happiness wasn’t any less real.

Gretchen and Corry Morris, the adopted parents of Isla and biological parents of Mia, 13, and Cade, 12, knew they were the family for Isla from the beginning.

“First, we started with foster care and we just wanted to give back somehow. It’s always been something that is important to me,” Gretchen Morris said. “She’s only our second foster child and she became available for adoption. We definitely fell in love with her right away and felt that it was meant to be.”

Judges Charles Snyder and Deborra Garrett presided over the three adoptions. Snyder has presided over the proceedings since the first National Adoption Day celebration in Whatcom County in 2008.

“While adoptions happen throughout the year, this event is part of a national movement set aside to recognize the importance of these children formally becoming part of a family,” said Dave Reynolds, director of Superior Court administration and overseer of the Superior Court, its Juvenile Division and the County Clerk’s Office.

Christine Domes and Norah West of the Department of Social Services say that throughout Washington state, nearly 1,500 children of all ages are legally free to be adopted into a permanent home.

“I think it’s heartbreaking, for one, and if anyone just has the patience, the room available in their home and their heart that they should step out of their comfort zone and take the leap,” Gretchen Morris said. “I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone to be a foster parent. It’s not easy; it’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s worth it.”

Seven-year-old James has been in foster care since he was 27 days old. Carina and Victor Kozaczuk have provided James something no others did.

The Kozaczuks have two other adopted children. Ilidia, 11, was adopted from Russia in 2007 and Samuel, 10, was adopted from China in 2009. Both children seemed very enthusiastic about having a little brother.

Dulce Puga and Noel Lira, the adopted parents of Jaydin Parker, never thought they would be foster parents, but are open to adopting another child.

“We’ve talked about it and I think if we want to add another one, I think adoption would be our next step,” Lira said. “It would help somebody out and make our family bigger – we like big families.”

Parker is now the little sister of Javier, 11, and Geovann, 12. Puga, Lira and their three children arrived at the celebration Friday with red and white color-coordinated outfits (including Parker in a red and white dress) and black leather jackets.

Aside from the look on the parents’ faces after the adoption was finalized, Snyder said he enjoys one other aspect of the event most.

“One thing we do for these kids is that we give them a teddy bear,” Snyder said. “Handing a teddy bear to that newly adopted kid is just amazing. The kid’s reaction is just wonderful and sometimes it just knocks you out.”

Though he remained quiet throughout the adoption process, James’ face lit up with excitement as Garrett handed him his teddy bear.

“Gracias,” the boy told the judge.

Vanessa Thomas: 360-715-2289, @vaney_t13