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Toddler welcomed into Clairton family on National Adoption Day

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 6:00 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Surrounded by her new family while in the arms of her new big sister, Wendy Florenz, 10, newly adopted toddler, Erin Lee Florenz, 19 months, smiles after her adoption hearing at Family Court in the Family Law Center, Downtown, Saturday, November 23, 2013. Erin was adopted by Louise Florenz, of Clairton.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Wendy Florenz, 10, kisses her new little sister, Erin Lee Florenz, 19 months, after Erin's adoption hearing at Family Court in the Family Law Center, Downtown, Saturday, November 23, 2013. Erin was adopted by Louise Florenz, of Clairton.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Erin Lee Florenz, 19 months, hugs her baby doll while waiting for her adoption hearing at Family Court in the Family Law Center, Downtown, Saturday, November 23, 2013. Erin was adopted by Louise Florenz, of Clairton.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Louise Florenz, of Clairton, right, smiles during the adoption hearing of her new daughter, Erin Lee, 19 months, in Judge Kathleen Mulligan's courtroom at Family Court in the Family Law Center, Downtown, Saturday, November 23, 2013. At left is their case worker, Melissa Fuchs.

Ever since she began babysitting for neighborhood children when she was 10, Louise Florenz knew she had a knack for raising children and hoped to one day have a large family of her own.

“I've always loved kids, especially the really little ones, and have been taking care of kids nearly all my life,” said Florenz, 34, of Clairton, who has cared for more than 30 foster children during the past five years. “I feel like I have a lot of love to offer them and want to do as much as I can to help them.”

Last year, Florenz, a single mother with two biological daughters — Amanda, 13, and Wendy, 10 — “gave them the brother they always wanted” by adopting Brett, 3, for whom she has cared since he was 15 days old.

On Saturday, which was National Adoption Day, Florenz appeared in Allegheny County Family Court, Downtown, to add to her brood by adopting Brett's 19-month-old biological sister, Erin, for whom she has cared since she was 5 weeks old. Adoption proceedings were held for about 40 other children.

Dressed in a navy blue sailor's outfit, Erin clutched her favorite baby doll as Judge Kathleen R. Mulligan finalized the adoption with the declaration: “Hereafter, she shall be known as Erin Lee Florenz, the daughter of Louise Florenz. Congratulations!”

While Florenz acknowledges that raising a large family can be challenging, she said any difficulties are outweighed by the joy she experiences.

“It's fun, I love it,” she said. “It can be hard sometimes, but I get a lot of help from my daughters, mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins.”

By early next year, Florenz hopes to adopt another boy, a 19-month-old foster child for whom she is caring.

“A permanent, stable, loving home is incredibly important to all children,” said Marc Cherna, director of the county's Department of Human Services. “While DHS always strives to support these goals with a child's birth family, we are grateful to the individuals who open their hearts and homes through adoption to those children for whom a return to the birth family is not an option.”

While Florenz knows that serving as a foster parent or providing a child with a permanent home through adoption is not for everyone, she hopes more people will consider it.

“I was lucky to be raised by my mother and father,” Florenz said. “But there are a lot of children who aren't so lucky. I would say to anyone who has ever thought they had something to offer a child to consider becoming a foster parent or adopting a child of their own.”

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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