At the center of the circle of people gathered in the shade in front of the Maricopa County Juvenile Court in Mesa was a girl.
She hugged each new person as they arrived. She patiently posed for pictures. She danced on one foot in brown sandals and white ruffled socks and then the other.
She’d been waiting a long time for this day — half of her lifetime, in fact.
She’s just 5, but she walked through the metal detector by herself and then turned to make sure everyone else was following.
The couple who took her hands — the woman on one side, the man on the other.
The man’s parents, Grannie and Papa, sister Angie and niece Kaylee. Long-time friends Rick and Cindy.
Her foster mother Kasey Harris and Kasey’s toddler daughter, Willow. Nana and Michael.
Her Court Appointed Special Advocate Karolina Donis. Virgil and Elliott. Miss Niki. Me.
The girl looked around as she entered the courtroom, following the man and the woman through the swinging door and to a table on the left. She climbed carefully onto the swivel chair.
The couple stated their names for the record. Robert DeSanto, and his wife, Ashley DeSanto. Then the girl sat up straight and said her name.
It seemed to float across the courtroom to Judge Karen O’Connor who smiled back at the girl.
‘Just like that, she was one of us’
I’ve written about this girl before, but she was in foster care so I couldn’t tell you her name.
She called me “Ballerina.”
I suppose it was because she was just 2½ the first time I met her. She had a fountain ponytail on top of her head and a doll baby tucked under her arm.
“Karina” must have sounded like “ballerina” to her. No one had ever mistaken me for a ballerina, so I never corrected her.
She was my cousin Kasey’s first foster child. And just like that, she was one of us.
Finding her family
She stayed one of us even when she left to live in Texas a year ago with the man and the woman sitting with her at the table.
On Monday, there were documents read aloud, questions asked and answered, a positive recommendation from the state child welfare worker.
And then attorney Ed Johnson asked Ashley DeSanto if she wished to adopt the girl.
“I sure do,” she said. Her hand reached instinctively for the child next to her.
The attorney asked Robert DeSanto the same question.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
The attorney shifted through the paperwork, outlining how the couple had cared for the girl in the last year, providing for all her needs and loving her.
“Is it your desire to do that forever?” Johnson asked Robert DeSanto.
“It is,” he said firmly. He smiled at his wife and at the girl swiveling in her chair.
The entire ceremony took just a few minutes from start to finish. Now I can tell you her name.
“Brooklyn’s new name will be Brooklyn Rae DeSanto, and the petitioners will be her legal mom and dad,” Judge O’Connor said.
Brooklyn’s eyes were wide, her mouth an O. She jumped up off the swivel chair.
“Congratulations, everyone — your adoption is final,” the judge said. “Congratulations, Brooklyn!”
Brooklyn has her family now, officially. And she still has us, keeping her in the center of our circle.
You can read here about how Brooklyn first came to our family and what made us want to never let her go.
Reach Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8614.