ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Nineteen kids got what might be one of the best Christmas presents ever — a home for the holidays, part of Family Support Services’ ‘#OfficiallyStitched’ adoption initiative.
“When she came in,” Kevin Ferlita recalled, “It was just like light came in the house. I go, ‘This is the one.'”
Kevin and Heather Ferlita officially adopted little Brooklyn at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, along with 17 other families adopting kids of their own.
“I was raised in a broken home,” Heather Ferlita explained. “So being the fact that I’ve been impacted emotionally, physically, with our family, we decided we wanted to reach out to give another child the opportunity with growth and stability.”
The Ferlitas fostered the 5-year-old for about a year-and-a-half.
“She means everything to us,” Heather said. “We were just so happy that we can keep connections with her biological family in a healthy manner, but still provide permanency for her in the future.”
While adoptions usually happen in a courtroom, mixing it up can comfort some kids.
“Even though it’s still an amazing and special moment when it happens in court,” Jenn Petion said. “Sometimes for our kids, court has some bad memories.”
Petion is the president and CEO of Family Support Services.
Even though FSS reunified hundreds of kids this year, more than 2,576 children remain in the system of care in Pinellas and Pasco counties, including 620 awaiting adoption.
“We know that we have about 600 children that we want to get over that finalization finish line,” Petion said. “Today’s really just the beginning of a big push to get more kids permanency.”
Brooklyn is the Ferlita’s first adopted child — they have three biological kids, and say it doesn’t feel any different. They’re fostering two kids right now they plan on adopting too.
“It opened up an opportunity for us to bring in Brooklyn, and obviously to this day she’s been a part of our family,” Kevin Ferlita said. “It’s always going to be better for her every day, moving on. We love it.”
After the adoption ceremony, families got early access to Enchant, the Hallmark Christmas light spectacular in the Trop.
If you’d like adopt or learn more, you can check out Family Support Services here.