By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Christmas came a day early for three North Country families — and especially for eight young children who now have a true home.
Clinton County Family Court Judge Timothy Lawliss presided over the adoption ceremonies Monday morning, calling it “the best day of my career” as he began formal proceedings.
TOO EXCITED TO SLEEP
Bill and Nickie Walker of Granville began the festivities as attorney Kevin Peryer helped them through the formal paperwork for their three adoptees: Deonna, 10; Kyia, 8; and Isabel, 6.
Nickie’s biological daughter, Natalie, 8, also participated and acted as family photographer during the ceremony.
“The girls came from such a long way to be where they are today,” Nickie said before the official ceremony. “They were so excited that they couldn’t sleep last night.”
The girls wore festive holiday dresses and red and green ribbons in their hair. Each sat between their new parents as Lawliss individually signed the formal adoption papers. The large group of friends and family in attendance gave each child loud applause upon completion of the adoption.
“It’s very exciting,” said Mr. Walker, who is planning to adopt Natalie in the next few weeks.
He is actually Deonna, Kyia and Isabel’s biological uncle, as well as uncle of three girls’ siblings, who were also adopted during Monday’s ceremony.
Those 3-year-old twins, Christopher and Chloe, were adopted by Robert and Valerie Cioffi of Plattsburgh.
“We received a call in April of 2011 that two children required foster care,” Robert said of his first contact with the twins. “We took them in and went through the regular procedures for adopting children.
“Today, we’re receiving our Christmas present early.”
“After seven years of wanting to be a family, now it’s complete,” Valerie added.
The five siblings, all sporting bright blond hair, have also united the Cioffi and Walker families, who have become close since they all became responsible for the children.
They vowed to continue that relationship to allow the kids to stay close throughout their lives.
“It’s great; it’s great,” said Bill Walker Sr., the biological grandparent of all five children. “I’m not losing any grandchildren; I’m gaining a son- and daughter-in-law.”
Lawliss, who was especially lighthearted and jovial throughout the proceedings, talked with each child during the individual ceremonies.
“Natalie,” he said after signing Deonna’s and Kyia’s papers, “should we stop where we are or go for a third child?”
Natalie nodded her head.
“All right, we’ll go for a third.”
As the Cioffis took center stage with Christopher and Chloe, Lawliss noted that he thought the two families had done a wonderful job keeping the five children in close touch and mentioned that Family Court does not always see such a strong effort.
MAKING HIS MARK
Christopher, meanwhile, had become a crowd favorite with a steady series of 3-year-old-type comments during the ceremonies. Lawliss offered him a special, handwritten document that he could sign to agree to be adopted, as a playful measure for the energetic youngster.
Christopher picked up a pen, marked something on the paper and said, “That’s it,” to a burst of laughter from the audience.
COULDN’T LET THEM GO
Theresa Rock was the final parent to sit before Lawliss, with three children: siblings Margaret, 4; Allison, 3; and John Patrick, 16 months.
Accompanying Theresa were her two other boys, David, 7, and Robert, 6, brothers whom she adopted four years ago.
“They just needed a loving family,” Theresa said of her decision to adopt pair. “They were in several foster homes before I had them (as a foster parent for nearly a year). I wasn’t going to let them go anywhere else. They needed a permanent home.”
She had also taken Margaret, Allison and John Patrick as foster children and decided that they, too, needed the permanency her home offered.
“I’m excited but a little nervous as well,” she said of her new role as parent of five.
Though when Lawliss asked Robert if he thought the family should stop at five children, the 7-year-old said he was looking for one more girl to even out the brothers and sisters.
“There are a lot of children out there who need a loving family,” Theresa said following the ceremony. “There are a lot of children in foster care who need loving care from a family.”
As the official ceremonies ended, Lawliss called his own two daughters, Katie and Molly, to act as elves and hand out early presents for the children. The kids unwrapped their presents to find a menagerie of stuffed animals to take with them as the sons and daughters of their new moms and dads.
“This has been a very special day,” Lawliss said after the formal proceedings. “We have many caseworkers and staff members here. My wife and children are here, my parents as well. Kevin’s parents are here. We all wanted to see this.
“Most people in Family Court know it can be filled with pain and agony,” he added. “I want to thank you all for letting us have such a nice day on Christmas Eve. I will remember it forever.”
Valerie Cioffi’s mom, Evelyn Miller, summed up the feelings of all involved:
“They’re my first grandbabies,” she said. “I love ‘em.”
Email Jeff Meyers: firstname.lastname@example.org