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42 children adopted in Western Pa. in special 'National Adoption Day' event

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 5:08 p.m.

Melody Kief couldn't hold back the tears Saturday as an Allegheny County judge finalized the paperwork making her nephew, Kyle Cochenour her newly adopted son, but Kyle wasn't having any of that.

“Suck it up,” Kyle, 9, said with an impish grin, setting off a burst of laughter in Judge Paul Cozza's courtroom. “Save it for your pillow.”

Kief, 43, of Bridgeville, wasn't alone in creating a new family Saturday. Her brother, Mark Cochenour, and his wife, Kimberly, adopted their niece, Lexi, 3, who is Kyle's sister.

In all, 32 families completed 42 adoptions as part of National Adoption Day, according to officials with the Allegheny County Children's Court.

“I can't imagine life without her,” Mark Cochenour of Kittanning said of his new daughter, who is now part of a family with three adult children. “I don't think any different of her than our other children.”

For Cochenour and Kief, taking in children is in their blood. Their mother, Shirley, of Troy Hill, was a foster parent to nearly 30 children, they said, adopting two of them.

One adoptee, their sister, had three children, including Kyle and Lexi.

Kief, a special education teacher, took in all three more than 2 12 years ago because of suspected abuse by their sister's boyfriend. Kief is a single mother, so Mark Cochenour, an IRS agent, and his wife took in Lexi to help out. The third child is with a biological father.

Kief said her sister's problems were too much to overcome, so the siblings adopted the children.

“I always felt like he was kind of mine anyway,” Kief said of Kyle. “I've always been his go-to person.”

Sarah Kief, 7, Melody's daughter, is excited about the transformation of her cousin.

“I'm happy because I have a new brother, because he's nice to me and a whole bunch of stuff,” Sarah said.

After finalizing Kyle's and Lexi's adoptions, Cozza played catch with the children, tossing each of them a stuffed bear with their names written on them as a memento of the day.

“It's a good day,” Cozza said.

So far in 2012, Allegheny County finalized 148 adoptions.

Marc Cherna, director of Allegheny County's Department of Human Services, said that when children are removed from their homes because of abuse or other problems, the social service agency tries to reunite the family. However, he said, sometimes the family has disintegrated beyond repair, and adoption offers a child more permanency than being in a foster home.

“It's important that they have that stability that all children need and deserve,” Cherna said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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