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Families thankful for addition via adoption

Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review - Mary and Roger Piper celebrate with their two children Alyssa, 5, and Cody after formal adoption proceedings in the courtroom of Judge Chris Scherer on November 21, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Sean Stipp  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Mary and Roger Piper celebrate with their two children Alyssa, 5, and Cody after formal adoption proceedings in the courtroom of Judge Chris Scherer on November 21, 2013.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review - Josie Bortz of New Alexandria holds Lily, 2, her newly adopted daughter at their home on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review</em></div>Josie Bortz of New Alexandria holds Lily, 2, her newly adopted daughter at their home on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review - Josie Bortz of New Alexandria holds Lily, 2, her newly adopted daughter at their home on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review</em></div>Josie Bortz of New Alexandria holds Lily, 2, her newly adopted daughter at their home on Thursday, November 21, 2013.

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By the numbers

Annual adoptions through the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau

•2009: 29 children

•2010: 37 children

•2011: 45 children

•2012: 46 children

•2013, through late November: 42 children

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Two Westmoreland County families need look no farther than the faces of their adopted children to find the true meaning of being thankful.

The parents, who have all finalized adoptions within the past five weeks, traveled different paths, but ended their journeys in the same place — standing before a judge to explain why they should raise the children who had been placed under the supervision of the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau for various reasons.

When Mary Piper stepped before that judge, the Derry Township woman was already emotional about the prospect of adopting her grandchildren, Alyssa, 5, and Cody, 3.

“Can you tell the court why you want to adopt?” asked Children's Bureau Solicitor Chuck Wade.

“Because I love them,” Piper said through tears.

While awaiting the judge's decision, Cody, dressed in a white turtleneck and a sweater vest emblazoned with a fire truck, sat on his grandfather's lap and Alyssa sat next to her adoptive mother-to-be wearing a polka dot sweater dress and pink leggings, her blonde hair in a ponytail.

“I love these kids, I'm very lucky to have them both,” Roger Piper said.

And then came word from the judge.

“It is in their best interests, I approve their adoption,” ruled Judge Chris Scherer. “Enjoy it as much as you can today.”

Thus far in 2013, 42 children have been adopted through the Children's Bureau, according to county records.

The ultimate goal for these children is reunification with their biological parents, said casework supervisor Molly Ridilla.

But sometimes that isn't in the child's best interest and caseworkers try to identify someone within the family to act as a foster parent until the parents' rights to the child can be terminated, either voluntarily or by a judge, Ridilla said.

A foster family outside of the family is a last resort, she said.

Fostering can eventually lead to adoption, a process that takes about two years, Ridilla said.

Judge Christopher Feliciani, who has presided over numerous adoptions in his 10 years on the bench, said the adoption ceremonies signal a start to lives of security and stability for the children.

“The reason adoptions are so meaningful is because it brings finality to what, often times, are years of broken memories, changes in placements and turmoil these children endure,” Feliciani said.

For Josie Bortz of Salem, the decision to adopt her 2-year-old niece was simple.

When she began caring for Lily in June 2011, when the baby was 3 months old, Bortz learned by trial-and-error about how to care for the infant with the help of family and friends.

“I have never even got to be her aunt, I've always been her mom,” Bortz said about the energetic little blonde girl whose favorite stuffed animal is a dog named “Woof Woof.”

Bortz and her financé, Cory Morgan, have a son, 2-year-old Dean. Lily was officially adopted on Oct. 30.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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