Allegheny County adoption event joins 40 children with families
When her husband suggested they become foster parents, Renee Cope didn’t think she could do it.
“I said I get attached to kids too easily,” said Cope, 42, of Liberty. “I couldn’t bear to send them home.”
Seven years later, the now-single mother of five has fostered more than 40 children, mostly infants born addicted to drugs. She adopted her fifth child, Kali Ann Mae Robertson, 3, on Saturday in family court, Downtown.
Kali has been her foster daughter since two days after she was born.
“She completes my family,” Cope said.
Local families adopted 40 children Saturday to celebrate National Adoption Day. The children ranged in age from 1 to 15. The children had been in foster care with their new parents before county judges finalized the adoptions.
For the children, the more exciting part of the day was meeting several Disney princesses wandering through the halls, getting balloon animals and having their caricatures drawn.
Daryl Lewis, 42, and Tanya Sloan, 33, of Clairton took things a step further. After Allegheny County Judge Guido DeAngelis signed their adoption order for JaNelle, 2, Lewis handed him another paper.
“I said, since you’re signing stuff, we have a marriage license,” he said.
The couple had planned to marry Dec. 13 but found out that they might have to reschedule because a family member had to work that day. Asking the judge to marry them was a spur of the moment decision, they said.
“We couldn’t have made it any better,’ said the new Mrs. Lewis. “All our kids are here.”
DeAngelis said he was happy to perform the ceremony.
“Today is one of the finest days of my judicial career because in one event and at one time it gave me the opportunity to preserve the family,” he said.
Cope, who is divorced and has two biological children and three adopted children, said she fostered children for about three years before she adopted a child. The first child she fostered was with her for six months before she was reunited with her biological mother.
“I was devastated when she left, and I told them I couldn’t do it again,” Cope said.
The agency kept calling, and she couldn’t refuse, particularly when it came to infants born addicted to drugs.
“I just found it really rewarding,” she said.
Cope returned to college in September and is studying to become a social worker so she can continue helping kids while she raises her family.
Saturday’s event brings the number of adoptions in the county to 184 for the year.
The number of adoptions in Allegheny County have been dropping because the Office of Children, Youth and Families has had more success reuniting children with their birth parents, Deputy Director Walter Smith said.
Forty-seven kids wait to be matched with adoptive parents, and much of the agency’s focus is finding homes particularly for the older kids.
The agency typically has more trouble finding a permanent home for teens partly because many parents consider adoption when they’re younger, and there’s a perception that older children are harder to integrate into new families, he said.
The agency is hoping parents with an empty or nearly empty nest will decide “they still like the idea of kids being part of their households and families,” he said.
As experienced parents, they know how to set boundaries while giving teens the freedom to mature.
“We all need social support, even into adulthood,” Smith said.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Total Trib Media. Contact him at 412-325-4301 at [email protected].