Leauna Jones and Tanasha Robertson adopted 8-month-old Jeremiah at Adoption Day at the Maricopa County Juvenile Court on Nov. 17, 2018. Carly Henry, The Republic | azcentral.com
Eight-month-old Jeremiah Jones-Robertson was getting antsy.
The smiling, wide-eyed toddler kicked off his rainbow-checkered slip-on Vans shoes and tugged at his mom’s hair as the minutes ticked by ahead of their final hearing Saturday in the Durango Juvenile Court building in Phoenix.
Leauna Jonesand her wife, Tanasha Robertson, were also eager to get into the courtroom with their foster child, lovingly called Bucky. He would leave as an official member of their family — just one of the families finalizing the adoption of 180 children during 128 ceremonies at the Maricopa County Juvenile Court as part of National Adoption Day.
But it was a monumental event for Jones, Robertson and their family. They filled the small hallway outside of the courtroom, practically impossible to miss in their white T-shirts printed with a colorful message, "Move out of the way, we have papers to sign. It’s adoption day!"
‘We prayed we would get him’
Bucky was barely 3 weeks old when the Arizona Department of Child Safety called asking whether Leauna and Tanasha had a bed open for another foster child. The call came only a few weeks before they were scheduled to get married.
The couple already had four other foster and biological kids in the home, but they were eager to welcome another. Immediately, they knew the nameless infant boy was to become their own baby.
Leauna Jones and Tanasha Robertson adopted their son Jeremiah on Nov.17, 2018. After the adoption hearing, they stood with their family and Judge Maria del Mar Verdin.
(Photo: Carly Henry/The Republic)
"As soon as he walked through that door, we knew we were adopting him," Tanasha said. "We prayed we would get him before he even came into our home."
A family — officially
The large family filled the small courtroom while the mothers and all of the children crammed around the table before Superior Court Judge Maria del Mar Verdin.
Bucky giddily bounced on the table, unaware of the monumental legal event unfolding around him. Leauna pulled him into her lap while he cooed and chattered.
"It’s obvious to me that this is a family filled with love," del Mar Verdin said. "It’s obvious to me this is the happiest boy I’ve seen all day."
Her observation was met with chuckles and a knowing "amen" from grandma seated in the back of the courtroom.
Leauna let out a great, joyful sob and another nana wiped tears away from her eyes as del Mar Verdin finalized the adoption.
"This forevermore will be your son, and you forevermore will be his parents," she said to the parents.
The family — now one child larger — then flooded forward for photos. The judge handed Bucky a gold medal to mark the occasion, which he immediately placed in his mouth. But his mothers didn’t notice as they carried him out of the courtroom to celebrate the fact that they were officially a family.
‘This is nothing but happiness’
Outside, hundreds of children played on inflatable bounce castles and took pictures with Santa. New families huddled with volunteers, caseworkers and other parents to giddily recount their own hearings and parenting tales.
Juvenile Court Judge Lisa Flores prepared to hear her own set of hearings later that afternoon. It was a day she looked forward to every year.
"This is nothing but happiness," she said. "It’s days like this that re-energize a judge and make us happy we get to do this job."
Assistant Sam Kaufman plops a stuffed frog on top of photographer Patty Kaufman’s head to make the kids laugh while she took family portraits for Maricopa County’s National Adoption Day on Nov. 17, 2018.
Flores estimated about 85 percent of the cases scheduled to be finalized Saturday involved kids in the child-welfare system. The others were private adoptions.
Some of the courtrooms are overflowing with families before the hearing, while Flores said others are just the parents themselves and the child. Regardless, the joy is still the same. The judges also get to share that joy.
"You really feel like you are a part of the family," she said.