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Irma and Jesus Nevarez of Sylmar officially become parents of their four-year-old grandson Jayden, as part of National Adoption Day. The couple says Jayden has been a blessing in their old age.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are all about family, and now Jayden Nevarez officially has a new one.

On Saturday, Nov. 21, the four-year-old was one of 149 children in Los Angeles who were adopted in Los Angeles as part of National Adoption Day. The ceremonies were held virtually because of the coronavirus, but they were no less meaningful for his new family, biological grandparents and Sylmar residents Irma and Jesus Nevarez.

“Our family is complete,” says Irma, proudly.

The adoption ceremonies were conducted virtually through a court-developed program that connected 11 judicial officers presiding in courtrooms to the 92 adoptive families at their homes. Pro bono attorneys with the Alliance for Children’s Rights and Public Counsel, and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services also participated.

The largest percentage of children adopted —37% — are between 3 and 5 years old, with 26% between 6 and 9 years old and 13% between 0 and 2 years old, officials said. Children between ages 10 and 14 comprise 18% of those being adopted, while 6% are 15 or older, officials said.

There are 36 groups of two siblings or more.

“We are so proud and profoundly grateful to have — even amidst an incredibly challenging year — pushed forward in collaboration with our partners to ensure that hundreds of families in Los Angeles can safely finalize their adoptions,” said Cynthia J. Billey, director of the Alliance for Children’s Rights Adoption Program.

Jennifer Braun, president of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, praised the families by noting the “love and bonds you share are so incredibly powerful.” She also recognized the difficulties these adopting families may have faced as the adoption process went along or the circumstances that led them to welcome children into their homes.

“Some of you are adopting a young relative who entered your home unexpectedly,” Braun said, while others decided adoption was the way to complete a family.

An Unexpected New Son

Such was the case for the Nevarezs. After raising four kids of their own, the couple—she, 60, and he, 59-years-old—thought they were done changing diapers and taking care of little ones.

But nearly four years ago, they had to start over again when their youngest son (now 23) and a girl he was in a relationship with had a baby. The relationship didn’t work out and the mom left, leaving the child with the father who was also not able to take care of him.

The county Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was prepared to place the child in foster care when his grandparents stepped in.

“We didn’t want our grandson to be going from one house to another, so we turned our house into a foster home so he could be with us,” Irma said.

Jayden was eight-months-old when he came to live with them as a foster child. It helped that the Nevarezs had a clean record and were given their license right away to provide foster care. One of their sons lent them a crib and other baby items they needed to accommodate Jayden.

They also attended parenting classes and complied with other requirements such as monthly visits from a social worker who checked on the welfare of the child, and made sure he was in no danger in the house.

It was all worth it, they said, even having to deal with late night feedings, diaper changes and all the other attention a baby needs.

“We had already finished (raising kids), but we had to start again,” Irma says, adding that it was not so difficult, because “what you learn as a parent, you never forget. The only thing that matters is that you want to do it.”

The talkative and handsome young boy is now almost four-years-old and has brought new life to the Nevarez family. Jayden has no contact with his biological mother; he knows his biological father, who visits him but, to him, Irma is his mom and Jesus is his dad.

That bond was cemented when a judge officially approved his adoption, giving peace of mind to the Nevarezs.

“One feels a lot more secure that he’s ours, he’s our son,” they say.

“We wanted it to be over to be able to take the child with us anywhere we want to go, however long we want to be there so he can enjoy those times with us,” added Jesus.

Foster parents require permission from the court to take a foster child with them outside of the state or the country. They must provide the address where they’re going to be and how long they’re going to be there, but there are limitations.

With Jayden’s adoption, those imitations are gone now.

The Nevarezs sought his adoption almost from the moment Jayden came to live with them. But they began the process a year ago, going through a series of investigations, courses and home visits by social workers.

“Above all, you need to have a house where to have them, keep it clean and everything organized,” says Irma, a stay-at-home mom.

“Forever Families”

She encourages other people willing to open their homes to foster kids and adoptive kids to do so.

“They (children) need love and if we can give them a little bit, it’s very easy and the most wonderful thing there is. When they grow up those kids can be even more grateful than your own,” Irma said.

Bobby Cagle — director of the  DFCS who was born into foster care in North Carolina and adopted when he was 10-months-old — agrees with Irma. He says foster and adoptive families can make a “lasting difference in (children’s) lives.”

And in Los Angeles there are a lot of children who need to be “connected to caring adults,” according to Cagle.

That’s the idea behind National Adoption Day. Since the Alliance for Children’s Rights launched it 21 years ago, more than 80,000 adoptions have been finalized on this day when children of all ages officially join their “forever families.”

For the Nevarez family, the occasion was truly joyous.

“Now we feel a great happiness and security that thank God he sent him to us” Irma said. “(Jayden) has been a blessing in our old age. We never imagined we would be raising another child, but God provides for everything.”