Four families and seven children began celebrating an extra special holiday season Monday in Hinds County Chancery Court as they finalized adoptions.
The mass adoption ceremony in Jackson follows two similar ceremonies in recent weeks in Meridian and Gulfport. Jackson County Chancery Court in Pascagoula then held an adoption ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 20.
The Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services has worked with attorneys and judges across the state to finalize adoptions for 129 foster children in its Home for the Holidays campaign, with a goal of pushing the total to 250 completed adoptions by the end of January 2023, said CPS Deputy General Counsel Bonnie Menapace.
Maegan Johnson, 14, said, “I’m excited,” as she waited outside the Hinds Chancery courtroom before the ceremony.
Maegan has lived with Angelleek Johnson of Jackson as her foster mother since age 4. “We are excited that this day has finally come,” Johnson said. “This is her forever home.”
“She has been a blessing. I’m just honored to be her mom,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who has served as a foster parent for many children during the past 10 years, adopted Maegan’s older sister about four years ago.
Roshunda and Sederca Harris of Byram adopted sisters Emerald, 15, and Kai Jai, 12, on Monday. It’s their second adoption of siblings. They adopted brothers Tavion and Demarion earlier.
Roshunda Harris as a teacher has seen siblings in foster care separated. She asked for siblings to keep them together. “I wanted to be part of the change.”
Miley McNatt, 13, and Evr McNatt, 12, became siblings by adoption. Amanda and David McNatt of Canton finalized Miley’s adoption on Monday. Amanda McNatt said it was “five years ago to the day” that they adopted Evr. Miley is a straight-A student who runs cross-country and competes in archery. She has lived in foster care since infancy. “It’s time for her to have her forever family,” Amanda McNatt said.
Gloria Wilson adopted three grandchildren who have lived with her since they were born. “No hesitation. I said yes,” she told Chancellor Tiffany Grove.
Judge Grove said, “I thank you for stepping up. You are going from the role of grandmother to the role of mother.”
Judge Grove presented each child with an adoption certificate. “I am pleased to be able to give you the first thing with your new name,” she said.
Judge Grove said she was especially happy to get to preside over the ceremony. “My mother was adopted, and my uncle.”
Attorney Will Manuel, one of four volunteer attorneys who assisted in finalizing the adoptions, left the courthouse in good spirits. “It’s nice to do something where everyone leaves the courthouse happy.” He ordinarily deals with products liability and commercial and employment litigation, but adoption is close to his heart. “Both of my kids are adopted.”
Commissioner Andrea Sanders, who leads the Department of Child Protection Services, was adopted when she was a week old. Her parents had adopted a son before her, then had two biological children.
Most of the children who come into CPS custody can be returned safely to their biological parents or to the care of other family members. For those who remain in foster care, there is an urgency to find permanency for them. “We are all committed to seeing that children don’t stay in custody one day longer than they have to,” Sanders said. “We will stand in the shoes of parents for children,” she said, but added, “We will always be a poor substitute for family.”