Devlin White, 6, of Vancouver has his face painted by Charlene Adrian at a National Adoption Day event at the First United Methodist Church in Vancouver. Devlin was adopted in May, along with his sister, Giovanna, 5, by Vancouver resident Leann White.
When Leann White of Vancouver welcomed foster children Giovanna, 5, and Devlin, 6, into her home with eventuality of adoption, she thought the adjustment process was too good to be true.
"They were wonderful," White said. "They were well-behaved. They got along with all the house rules, pets, other kids."
In the foster care/adoption world, that's referred to as the "honeymoon period," said Rachael Scott, the family's adoption social worker through the state Department of Social and Health Services.
The White children were among nearly 30 former foster children and their families from Southwest Washington who celebrated being adopted in the past year at a National Adoption Day
event at Vancouver First United Methodist Church.
All of the families have been through the ups and downs of foster care and adoption, from children's behavioral issues resulting from trauma in early childhood to foster parents' anxiety about whether they would be able to keep and adopt their foster infant.
About six months into their new home, the White children's emotional challenges began to surface.
Devlin was clingy and obsessed with being perfect to win his new mother's approval; Giovanna had trouble attaching and didn't want to be touched, White said.
For White, who had dreamed of having children, Giovanna's detachment was the most distressing.
"I was worried that my daughter would never love me," White said.
White took the children to counseling paid for through DSHS's adoption support and read books on techniques to address their challenges. And with time, Giovanna warmed up.
After their adoption was finalized in May, things seemed to turn around.
"The kids seemed to be happy; they knew they weren't going anywhere," White said. "He knows it's OK to spill things, and she gives hugs and kisses."
Macey Tenison, 10, of Kelso captured that feeling of relief and safety from a good adoptive home in a song she wrote and sang Thursday to attendees at the Vancouver adoption celebration. Macey wrote the song when her adoption was finalized three years ago.
"Once, we were scared and all alone," she sang. "Then, we came to live in your home."
Macey's mother, Shaelynn Tenison, said every time she hears the song it brings her to tears.
Sarah Blanchette of Vancouver will soon know the joy of adoptive motherhood. Blanchette wanted to adopt a child through the foster system. The first placement in her home was a 2-week-old baby boy.
"It's really hard to be a foster parent," Blanchette said. "You have your heart on the line. You connect with the child, and you don't know if he will get to stay in your home. That was the biggest roller coaster of all."
Blanchette and her foster son, Elijah, who is now 19 months old, will soon have the security of adoption, which will be finalized later this month.
This is the eighth year DSHS has held local events coinciding with National Adoption Day. The events are paid for with donations and include portraits, gifts for the children, food and beverages, decorations and raffle prizes, all at no charge to attendees.
The national event was founded in 2000 to raise awareness of the thousands of foster children awaiting adoption.
In Washington, more 1,600 children in state foster care are waiting for adoption after the rights of their biological parents were terminated by courts or relinquished.