The unique adoption event took place on Friday, Oct. 29, at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida. Eleven families attended the Halloween-themed legal proceeding, according to a media advisory issued by the Family Support Services of North Florida Inc.
Festive décor was placed around the courtroom, including Halloween banners, spider webs, eyeball balloons, paper mache jack-o-lanterns, candy buckets and not-so-scary cutouts.
Officials at the Duval County Courthouse and Family Support Services of North Florida Inc. organized a Halloween-themed adoption ceremony in Jacksonville, Florida. (Family Support Services of North Florida Inc.)
Unlike other adoption ceremonies that typically require a suit and tie and other forms of professional attire, costumes were allowed in court for the children.
Shyla, 8, donned a police officer costume alongside her two brothers and was given the title of “honorary bailiff” for the day. Her adoption was later finalized that day with daycare owner Angie Sheppard becoming her new mom, according to Family Support Services of North Florida. Other school-aged attendees wore cowboy, wizard and ninja costumes to the event.
Angie Sheppard and her two sons welcome 8-year-old Shyla into their family. The new family unit posed for a picture with Judge Michael Kalil, who presided over the Halloween-themed adoption ceremony. (Family Support Services of North Florida Inc.)
“Having an opportunity to oversee adoptions throughout the year, and be part of an extraordinary moment for each of the new families coming together, has been a joy,” said Judge Michael Kalil, who presided over the adoption ceremony. “So many children look forward to this time of year specifically because of all the holiday events they can participate in.”
“I hope we’ve been able to bring that same level of happiness to the 15 children and 11 families we’ve brought together at today’s Home for Halloween event,” he added.
According to Family Support Services of North Florida, there are approximately 2,000 children in its care throughout Duval and Nassau County.
More than 1,200 of those children are living in out-of-home care and more than 250 are in foster homes waiting to be adopted.
“As an adoptive parent myself, I know how impactful this day was for both the children and their forever families,” said Jenn Petion, the president and CEO at Family Support Services of North Florida. “Everyone present will cherish these memories for years to come.”
Families who wish to open their homes to a child in Duval or Nassau County can visit FSSjax.org for more information.