‘We want the best for him’ – Families celebrate Adoption Day at Westmoreland courthouse |

‘We want the best for him’ – Families celebrate Adoption Day at Westmoreland courthouse

Renatta Signorini

On the 1,317th day, Beau Shawley got adopted.

The 4-year-old Ligonier Township boy grinned for pictures Thursday with his adoptive mom and dad, Jennifer and Dale Shawley, after they fostered him for most of his life — three years, seven months and six days, to be exact.

“He’s the youngest and the liveliest,” Jennifer Shawley testified during his adoption hearing. “He keeps us busy.”

Eighteen children were officially welcomed into 13 families during the annual Adoption Day at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. The families have provided foster care to the children for months or years before coming to the point where an adoption was deemed to be in the child’s best interest. The goal of the county children’s bureau is to reunify children with their biological parents, when possible.

Beau joined four other children, including his 7-year-old brother, that the Shawleys have adopted in addition to their four biological children. They’ve fostered 85 children over 28 years and may be ready for a break for now after adopting the littlest guy, who wore a bow tie and vest to his adoption hearing.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Ryan Dupre-Stokes became the lone foster-turned-adoptive son for Barb and Rob Stokes of New Florence. The couple have fostered Dupre-Stokes since July 2017. They have two biological adult children.

“I felt that we needed to do this to try to help him improve his life,” Rob Stokes testified. “I know we’ve done the right thing.”

Dupre-Stokes, who turns 18 in January, is a high school senior in Indiana County and is or has been a member of the football, basketball, baseball and track teams. He made honor roll for the first time this year and is considering pursuing a career in nursing.

Without the Stokes’ compassion, those opportunities may not have been there.

“It means I have people to back me up now,” Dupre-Stokes said after his adoption was finalized. “Now I have people to back me no matter how mad I make them.”

He immediately became part of the family after Barb Stokes said she felt called by God to help Dupre-Stokes.

“We really love him and we care about him and we want the best for him,” she said. “I feel like he will have a better future if we (adopt) him.”

An adoption for a teenager is different than one for a baby or toddler, said Senior Judge John Driscoll, who presided over Dupre-Stokes’ case. A young adult can understand the level of love and commitment a family is taking on by going through with an adoption, he said.

“These cases don’t always go this well,” Driscoll said. “… This is a powerful adoption.”

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.

Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Ryan Dupre-Stokes, 17, looks up toward Senior Judge John Driscoll during an adoption hearing on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at the Westmoreland County Courthouse. Dupre-Stokes was formally adopted by his foster parents, Barb and Rob Stokes.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Senior Judge John Driscoll greets Ryan Dupre-Stokes, 17, after an adoption hearing on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at the Westmoreland County Courthouse. Dupre-Stokes was formally adopted by his foster parents, Barb and Rob Stokes, at right.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Jennifer Shawley laughs while sitting on the testimony bench with her adopted son, Beau, 4, during an adoption hearing proceeded by Westmoreland County Judge Jim Silvis on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 at the Westmoreland County Courthouse. The hearing allowed the Shawley family to formally adopt Beau, who they had been fostering.
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