Five children shuffled into Tarrant County’s 322nd District Court on Friday morning.
Their faces small and solemn, the siblings moved to the front of the courtroom, stopping just before Judge James Munford. Parents Robert and Daphne Pesina stood by their sides. A law student at Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth administered an oath.
“Do you understand adoption is like a promise, and you are promising to love these children forever and ever?” she sked Daphne, then Robert.
“I do,” each answered.
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It took just five minutes to become an official family, for a judge to make the Pesinas legal parents of Elena, 13; Christopher, 7; Nicholas, 5; Sara, 3; and Cecelia, 22 months.
A total of 74 children were adopted Friday morning as part of National Adoption Day at the Tarrant County Family Center, where families embraced and laughed, grandparents wept, and small children clutched teddy bears.
For the Pesinas this story began more than one year ago.
Robert, a junior high history teacher, and Daphne, a high school English teacher — both in the Ennis school district — decided they wanted to adopt after attempts to have a biological child were unsuccessful. They hoped to adopt two, maybe three, siblings.
Then one Friday last November, an adoption caseworker sent an email about five siblings who had been placed in custody of Child Protective Services.
“Oh, Lord,” Daphne recalled thinking. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to talk him into three kids, never mind five.”
She was wrong.
Within 24 hours, they scheduled a meeting for the following week. Daphne still had reservations about adopting five children, though.
“I wanted to be sure we could provide, financially and otherwise, for our children,” she said. “And I worried about transportation. We were driving a two-door Monte Carlo then.”
On a Saturday in November, the Pesinas drove to the foster home in the Fort Worth area to meet the five children. Seeing them, Robert and Daphne knew in an instant.
“These were our kids,” Daphne said.
Initially, the children were shy, but the transition felt almost seamless.
“It was like they became a family overnight,” said Eddie Pesina, Robert’s brother. “It was beautiful.”
Eddie’s wife, Tracy, added, “These are incredible kids. They will crawl into your lap and cuddle. They just want to be loved.”
The Pesina family now spends days and evenings playing soccer and volleyball, coloring and drawing, watching Dora the Explorer, helping each other finish homework and washing endless loads of laundry.
“It is much, much noisier,” Daphne said, “and that is a good thing.”
Robert added, “We don’t even bother to look at the clock anymore. Time just flies by.”
Adopting five children is somewhat rare, said James Masek, the family’s attorney, who attended the ceremony. In most cases, the siblings would have been split between two or three families.
“You don’t get to see too many cases like this in family law. You deal with a lot of hard stuff,” said Masek, of Arlington. “This feels good.”
On Friday, the Pesina boys wore matching red vests with black pants, and the girls wore red and black outfits. Outside, after the ceremony, the kids squirmed and giggled. The baby tottered off, and her brother ran to catch her.
The family smiled and posed for photographs. They wiped away tears and hugged grandparents, aunts and uncles before finally turning to leave the courthouse together.
“These kids are our blessings,” Daphne said. “Without them, we wouldn’t even know what life is anymore.”