BROWNSVILLE — A crowd of people gathered inside the 197th state District Court on Friday, patiently waiting, save for a few restless toddlers, for Judge Adolfo E. Cordova Jr. to finish the morning’s court proceedings.

As he wrapped up, a group of half-a-dozen people entered the courtroom clad in purple T-shirts that read, “Family ever after,” and the day’s date in silver glitter font.

Among them was 2-year-old Iris Lucia Juarez, wearing her own tiny purple shirt and a small purple and silver bow in her curly hair. 

Along with her name, her shirt read, “Wanted chosen loved adopted,” as well as the day’s date — the day of her adoption.

Amelia Juarez holds up her newly adopted daughter Iris in 197th state District Court Friday morning following their successful adoption consummation hearing before the Honorable Judge Adolfo E. Cordova Jr. at the Cameron County Courthouse. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Friday marked the adoption day for three young girls as they became part of their forever families.

Just after 9 a.m. Cordova began presiding over the consummation hearings, calling up each of the new parents to testify before granting the adoptions of the children. He passed out gift bags with teddy bears to each of the young girls to help keep them calm during the proceedings, which worked on all but one whose attention was fixated on a table with balloons and refreshments.

“This is one of those spectacular days that makes those days as a judge that are really tough sometimes better,” Cordova said, addressing the crowd at the end of the ceremony. “Having three of my own children and raised them, I just think it’s the biggest gift and the most wonderful thing a human being can do to take a non-related individual into their home and making a family.”

“The amount of work that goes into raising a child is huge,” he continued. “For someone to be able to share their love, open their heart to what at one point was a stranger to them and make them their family is just a spectacular gift.”

Julie Fonseca, of the Cameron County Commissioner Gus Ruiz’ office for Precinct 4, sets up a celebratory cake in 197th state District Court Friday morning for the adoption consummation hearings of three families before the Honorable Judge Adolfo E. Cordova Jr. at the Cameron County Courthouse. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Friday’s event was just one of several happening throughout the state as part of National Adoption Awareness Month. 

Alexandra Hernandez, an adoption supervisor with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), said it is important to raise awareness about children in need of finding homes.

“It’s very special,” Hernandez said. “It’s been hard with COVID, but it hasn’t slowed us down. We kept pushing forward. These families have been working with us, some of them for over a year to get to this place. We’re very happy and grateful that these kids will have their forever families right before the holidays, which just makes the day even more special.”

As of September, there were 2,902 in the state in need of adoption, including 95 from the Rio Grande Valley. According to the annual DFPS data book, there were ​​5,270 Texas children adopted in 2020 despite the pandemic. 

For comparison, DFPS were able to consummate 6,107 adoptions in the previous fiscal year.

Hernandez said that even though COVID-19 created some hurdles, DFPS was able to adapt and continue finding families for children without slowing down.

“When COVID first started, a lot of courts had suspended everything — not just adoptions — all across Texas,” Hernandez recalled. “Now that we’ve found our movement, we’re able to proceed. It’s actually opened up other possibilities for us as adoption supervisors and workers. Workers have actually gotten very creative with how they match families and how they do visits with the kids.”

Hernandez said that aside from the requirements that must be met by prospective foster and adoptive parents, DFPS is looking for people who are stable and willing to show love to the children.

“We want for (the children) to feel comfortable,” Hernandez said. “We want for them to know that they are worth loving. Getting a child to a point where they know they should be part of a family — that’s our biggest achievement. A lot of these children don’t feel that they deserve it, so finding a family that’s willing and able to work with them and show them that they’re worth loving is our biggest accomplishment as a team.”

Jeniffer Soto, CPS adoption specialist, said that it was difficult trying to stay poised during Friday’s adoptions. 

“We always try to hold our tears in and try not to ruin our makeup,” Soto said. 

Sandy Hernandez of Raymondville was one of the parents completing the adoption process on Friday. She was visibly emotional during the adoption hearing for her 2-year-old daughter, Journey.

“I felt overjoyed because I’m a first-time mom,” Hernandez said. “I’ve never had children, so Journey will be my first.”

Sandy Hernandez uses her palms to wipe away her tears of joy following her finalized adoption of daughter Journey in 197th state District Court Friday during the adoption consummation hearings for three families before the Honorable Judge Adolfo E. Cordova Jr. at the Cameron County Courthouse. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Hernandez began her journey toward adoption when she began fostering Journey, who was 13-months-old at the time. She said making the decision to adopt Journey came from the need to fill the void in both their lives.

“I think the future is going to be full of surprises. As you can see, she is a handful,” Hernandez said with a laugh. “She’s very sassy, very smart, and she’s very energetic — as you all saw. She’s not shy, and she’s not afraid to say no to you.”

Amelia Juarez of Harlingen said she was overjoyed following her adoption of the 2-year-old curly haired girl, Iris. Juarez said that the adoption fell one day short of the day Iris was placed in her home.

“It’s been awesome having her in my family,” Juarez said. “She’s my first child, so I’m excited. I always wanted to adopt. I always wanted children, so I started the process and here we are today.”

Juarez said she anticipates returning for another adoption in the near future. She motioned to another young boy in a purple shirt.

“I’m going to be adopting him next month,” Juarez said. “He’s going to be 2 next month, so I will have two 2-year-olds.”

Information about becoming a foster or an adoptive parent can be found by visiting or calling (800) 233-3405.

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View Brownsville Herald photojournalist Denise Cathey’s full photo gallery during the adoption consummation hearings for the three families before the Honorable Judge Adolfo E. Cordova Jr. at the Cameron County Courthouse here:

Photo Gallery: Lower Valley children, adoptive parents rejoice at consummation hearings