Officially, the Almand family got two new members Friday morning when Judge Denine Guy signed the adoption papers for brothers Julian and Christian.
But the 20-month-old twins have been fostered by Lani and Scott Almand of Corralitos since the boys were just four weeks old so Friday's event, part of the Adoption Day event at the Watsonville courthouse, was the happy conclusion of a long journey.
"It's very special," said Lani, a stay-at-home mom. "It's something we always wanted to do."
The Almands have been foster parents for years. They met their older child, 17-year-old Lizzie, four years ago and began fostering her when she was 14. Last month, they officially adopted her in Monterey County court. But the family also wanted younger kids around, which is how Julian and Christian came into their lives.
About 52 foster children were adopted in Santa Cruz County in 2011. The process to adopt a foster child can be much longer than that of a normal adoption because the court system's first priority is to attempt to keep the biological family together.
Friday morning, 11 children were adopted by seven families. Sets of siblings joined the Almands and one other family; another family adopted three siblings.
"I love this day," said Guy. "We work hard to fix families. We try to strengthen families."
But when maintaining the biological family becomes untenable and there are no relatives to take the child, adoption into a "forever family" is the goal.
Lani said the first 10 month with the twins were hard because they were working toward reunification and Scott described it as an "emotional roller coaster."
Friday was a celebration.
"We're super excited now," he said. Adoption "was our hope from the beginning."
Julian, with floppy brown, reddish hair is the explorer and adventurer. Friday, he toddled through the reception area at the courthouse and, during the adoption proceedings, dragged the bailiff on a tour of the courtroom. Curly-haired Christian, who likes to dance and sing, sat with his parents and scribbled his mark on his adoption papers.
"It's got to be about the kids," said Carol Crisman, the Forever Families team supervisor with the county.
Her team is always looking for foster and adoptive families, especially those who can take sibling sets or older children.
"Some of these kids have been in the system for awhile and they need a home," Chrisman said.
November is National Adoption Month.
In Judge Guy's courtroom Friday, kids picked out stuffed animals while parents signed adoption papers and promised to treat the children as full-fledged members of the family. Relatives and friends packed the benches and snapped photos of happy families.
And a group of quilters, including Guy's mother, presented each child with a personalized, homemade quilt to commemorate the day.
The quilters, many members of the Pajaro Valley Quilt Association, call themselves the "Sew Little Timers" and make quilts for all of the foster children who find forever families in Guy's courtroom.
"They're especially made for them," Guy said.