ELIZABETH — By the time Moira Quinn started pushing to adopt her younger brother, Ireland, she was already working two jobs and pursuing an associate’s degree at Union County College.
But a battle with mental illness prevented their mom from parenting Ireland well, and his dad was serving time in prison. So Quinn, now 24, began the long training process to adopt Ireland and got her own apartment in Rahway so he could move in.
“Everything that happened with Ireland really pushed me to do better,” Quinn said Friday, minutes after the adoption was finalized by a judge.
Six families had their adoptions of 9 children formalized at the Union County courthouse in Elizabeth, and two other families joined to celebrate their adoptions of two kids earlier in 2017. The 10th annual event was one of four ceremonies across the state recognizing National Adoption Day on Saturday.
Kids in sport coats and suspenders scurried around a crowded foyer decorated with balloons, while local government and non-profit agencies manned tables advertising resources to new adoptive families as music played over a loudspeaker.
For families like the Quinns, the road to adoption has been long. State authorities removed Ireland from his home when he was 3, and Quinn said she immediately wanted to care for him herself.
She got her wish four years later, after her brother had been living with her as a foster child for nearly a year. Ireland, who has high-functioning autism, now attends Rahway Elementary School, while Quinn waitresses and is in her third year studying psychology at Rutgers.
The finalization of the adoption at first seemed to Quinn like a formality, she said, but the excitement of the day caught up with her and she felt like it was a special occasion.
Still, Quinn said, “Nothing much has really changed inside.”
Roughly 6,000 children are in foster care in New Jersey, according to the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency. They expect upwards of 900 kids to be adopted in 2017.
The division investigates troubled homes and gives parents designated periods of time to fix problems before they seek a court order to place the child in a foster home, said Jane Phillips, a Union County court services supervisor and coordinator of Adoption Day.
Either family members of the child or an unrelated family then go through weeks of training and allow themselves and their homes to be investigated before they can adopt. The children live with their new families for at least six months before the adoption is finalized.
Phillips said Adoption Day is intended to promote adoption as an option for families who want to help kids find permanency.
“These are their forever families,” Phillips said. “Some of them might not be biologically related, but they’re linked in their hearts and minds.”
Israel Archibald, 11, and his brother Aristotle Archibald, 9, were formally adopted Friday by a Newark family they lived with as foster children for five years. Another one of their siblings was adopted by a second family, and a fourth sibling is going through the adoption process with yet another family.
Israel said he is grateful that his adoptive mom, Keisha Archibald, has taught him discipline and good listening skills and enrolled him in school.
“I just love her for what she has done for me,” Israel said.
The adoption process was “grueling,” Archibald said, but she and her two other children — one biological and one previously adopted — wanted to make sure Israel and Aristotle had a safe place to live. They could not return to their birth parents, and she said both boys wanted to stay in their new home.
“It’s more of a purpose in life,” Archibald said of adopting. “It’s not a job to me.”
Marisa Iati may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Iati or on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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