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Families feel complete during National Adoption Day ceremony

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

NEW BRUNSWICK — The words “judgment for adoption granted” spoken by Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Deborah J. Venezia never sounded so sweet.

Venezia, who presides over the Family Division in New Brunswick, spoke those words 18 times on Nov. 15 as the county celebrated its ninth annual adoption ceremony, held at the Middlesex County Courthouse.

“There are no greater, more powerful words than those four words,” she said.

Venezia was joined by James P. Nolan Jr., who welcomed all the families; state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex); Allison Blake, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF); Kevin J. Hoagland, Middlesex County surrogate; and his brother John J. Hoagland, who spoke about being an adoptive parent.

In recent years, Blake said the DCF has seen an increased number of older youths — 14 to 21 years old — finding forever homes, as well as an increased shift of relatives and/or family friends playing key roles in opening their homes to help children in need.

Blake said the state is set to finalize 200 adoptions by the end of November across its 21 counties.

“Our mission is for these children to thrive and grow in safe homes,” she said. “Our staff members at the Division of Permanency have difficult jobs. Seeing these children connected into loving families reinforces that we are doing great work.”

In 2015, some 1,063 adoptions were finalized.

“Our focus is finding forever families for the youths,” she said.

Blake said last year in particular they had found forever families for 79 older youths.

“It has been an accomplishment that we are proud of,” she said.

Melissa and Brian Stevens, of South Amboy, celebrated the official adoption of their 4-year-old daughter Alexa.

“She is my biological niece,” said Melissa, who said this is the first time she and her husband are adopting a child. “The adoption was long, but well worth it.”

Barbara Montemurno, of Edison, celebrated the official adoption of 2-year-old Ethan.

“He is my son’s son,” she said. “My son and [Ethan’s] mom had a difficult time, and I became a foster parent. [His parents] are very much involved in his life.”

National Adoption Day is an annual event in which courts and communities in all 50 states come together to finalize thousands of adoptions and celebrate families who adopt.

The event is a collective, national effort to raise awareness of more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting for permanent and loving families.

Middlesex County’s program is co-hosted by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Middlesex County Bar Association and the Middlesex County Surrogate’s Office.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@gmnews.com.

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