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Adoptive parents celebrate foster children in Nassau

Judge Robin M. Kent assists Eleanor Haas-Colwell, 3,

Judge Robin M. Kent assists Eleanor Haas-Colwell, 3, with signing her name on the finalization paperwork during a ceremony at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City. (Nov. 18, 2013) Credit: Steve Pfost

The paperwork made it official, but adoptive mother Debbie McGraw said in her heart she knew it all along that Yolanda, 3, and Joel, 2, were her children.

McGraw, was one of a dozen Nassau parents who formalized the adoption of their foster children Monday at a ceremony at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City.

"I always knew I had room in my heart for children," said McGraw, who served as a foster mother for her son and daughter when they were only months old.

The ceremony organized by the Nassau Department of Social Services and Nassau Family Court was part of an annual county celebration marking National Adoption Day -- an effort to draw attention to the more than 400,000 children nationwide who are in foster care.

"It's such a joy to see the smiling faces of our families, many of whom have waited for a long time for this day to come," Nassau Social Services Commissioner John E. Imhof told the crowd of about 100 parents, children and supporters.

The adoptions of 13 Nassau children were formalized in a ceremony officiated by Nassau Family Court Judge Edmund M. Dane, Judge Ellen R. Greenberg and Judge Robin M. Kent. Another eight families adopted their foster children earlier in the year, said Nassau Department of Social Services spokeswoman Karen Garber.

There are currently 247 in Nassau County's foster care program -- 26 of whom are available for adoption, Garber said.

Holli Haerr, a Nassau resident said she long knew she wanted to adopt a child, and had researched international adoptions as an option, but decided to look locally and enroll in courses to become a Nassau foster parent.

Monday she adopted Kevin, a 23-month-old, who has been under her care for the past year and a half.

"It's been life changing," Haerr said. "When they placed him with me, I always said to myself I would treat him as if he was my own."

Denise Alba, a Nassau adoptive mother, addressed the crowd and said the ceremony marked the end of searching for both children and parents.

"You have a found a place where you can always rest," Alba said. "You have found a place where you will always be loved, where you will never be judged, but accepted for who you are and encouraged to be who you were meant to be."

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