Beginning Monday, Benjamin Brumfield can finally put his last name on his homework.
It’s something he’s been looking forward to but until his adoption was finalized Saturday, 10-year-old Ben wasn’t legally allowed to use Brumfield at school, said his mom, Eileen.
Ben was among 98 children adopted by 67 families this weekend at a mass event organized by the Pima County Juvenile Court Center.
The courtrooms were ramadas at Udall Park on the east side, where robed judges sat at picnic tables. Between the legal formalities, children played on inflatable slides, competed in carnival games and noshed on cotton candy, nachos and hot dogs.
Judge Geoffrey Ferlan, one of the organizers, said the annual event has a dual-purpose: celebration and awareness.
Having a giant party in the park to celebrate adoption “makes it more special for our families — a really momentous occasion,” he said.
And it raises awareness about the need for foster parents and adoptive families.
At any given time in Tucson, at least 100 children are in need of foster homes and adoptive parents, Ferlan said.
The decision to adopt came as a revelation for Eileen and Mark Brumfield. The couple live on several acres outside of Tucson. After their two adult daughters moved out of the family home, they started thinking, “This is the perfect place for little kids,” Eileen said.
Mark and his sister were
adopted, and when Eileen was in college, she gave up a child for adoption.
“Basically it’s full circle for us,” Mark said.
The Brumfields began reading profiles online about children in need of homes. Then they heard about the need for adoptive families at a Sunday church service.
That’s when they realized, “We have to stop ignoring God tapping us on the shoulder and do this,” Eileen said.
Unlike many families who want infants, the Brumfields knew they wanted an older child.
“They consider any child over 6 years old as unadoptable, and these are the kids who really need guidance,” Mark said.
Ben was the ninth child they met, and it was an instant connection for all three.
“The moment we saw him we knew Ben was it,” Mark said. “He latched right on to us, and he said he wanted to be with us.
“It is amazing. Everybody is like, ‘He could be yours!’ He looks like both of us. He has our same personalities. He’s funny and outgoing. He’s amazing,” Mark said.
Added Eileen, “The kids we had to say ‘no’ to, it was difficult, but it was necessary for us to get to Ben.”
Even the family pit bull, Bailey, made an immediate connection with Ben. The dog sleeps on his bed and watches out the window every day for Ben to return home from school, Mark said.
Ben takes karate classes. He’s on the honor roll, and he’s an uncle to the children of his new sisters.
“He’s a typical little kid,” Mark said. “He’s just like my two other kids. He’s perfect.”
At the adoption ceremony, a beaming Ben in a new dress shirt and khakis, was surrounded by his adopted family — his parents, grandparents and godparents — as the judge legally changed his name to Brumfield.
Nancy and Rich Cook were at the adoption event Saturday to formally bring three more children into their brood, which came as a surprise for one of the kids.
The Cooks are foster parents who have three adult sons and previously adopted their 4-year-old grandson, Joey. Saturday they adopted two foster sisters in their care, Haven, 3, and Amiyah, 2.
Their great nephew, 10-year-old Tyler, whom they’ve raised since infancy, thought he was there to celebrate the adoption of the girls. Unbeknownst to him, paperwork had been approved in time for the family celebration.
“He asked us to adopt him, and he went and asked his mother to sign the papers,” Nancy said.
At first the Cooks kept it a secret because they didn’t want Tyler to be disappointed if the adoption fell through. When it seemed inevitable, they decided to surprise him.
Tyler looked momentarily confused when the family approached the judge and the bailiff announced he and the girls were there to be adopted. After an unsure glance at Nancy, who was smiling and wiping away tears, Tyler unleashed a grin.
When the Cooks adopted Joey, they appeared in a courtroom.
“This is a lot more fun, family-friendly and informal, not so scary,” Nancy said.
B.J. Martin was working at a group home 11 years ago when she first considered adoption.
“I didn’t understand why some of the kids were coming back” after being adopted, she said. “I’m
from a family of 12 kids and my mom and dad adopted three of the kids.”
After talking to her parents and her sister, who fosters medically fragile children, Martin decided to become a foster parent.
Already mom to three grown biological children, Martin completed her third adoption Saturday when Jose, 13, joined the family.
Jose, a foster child, was placed in Martin’s home a year ago, and at first she didn’t think it was going to work.
“He would not get out of the car. He did not want to be here. I thought he would run away the minute he got a chance,” Martin said.
Within weeks, though, it became apparent that Jose was part of the family. He and Martin’s 12-year-old son made an immediate connection, and Jose was eager to help care for Martin’s ailing father.
“He just became a part of the family that first month,” said Martin, who continues to foster children. “These kids are a blessing and I pray every day for a miracle so I can have a bigger home and a bigger car so I can adopt even more.
“When I was working in the group home a lot of the kids made the comment that they were throw-aways. ...They were unloved and unwanted. They need to know they are loved and wanted. I work really hard to make sure they are loved and wanted when they walk through this door,” she said.
The Brumfields, the Cooks and Martin all said they would consider adopting again.