Dennis Stewart said he and his wife, Michelle, had the rest of their lives planned out.
But Stewart said a series of circumstances brought Amelia and Stephan into their lives. The Stewarts were part of an adoption ceremony at the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon where 15 adoptions were finalized.
When Stephan and Amelia came to live with the Stewarts, it was supposed to be for two weeks.
“A year and eight months later, we are going through the adoption of my beautiful children,” Stewart said.
Tuesday marked the 21st annual Helena adoption ceremony as part of National Adoption Awareness Month. District Court Judge Kathy Seeley brought up each family and signed off on paperwork to make adoptions and name changes official.
Sheila Hogan, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said she has looked forward to the ceremony since she started as director in January.
“I have waited patiently for this event,” she said. “What a way to start the holiday season.”
Jayme Tuoimi, who finalized the adoption of her five grandchildren, was given an award from Catholic Social Service of Montana.
“I never dreamt at 52 I’d be raising a 1-year-old,” she said.
Tuoimi finalized the adoption of her grandkids, ages 1 to 10, in August. She congratulated the families, some who have been together for a long time already. Tuoimi said she’d been raising her grandkids for a good part of their lives by the time the adoption was finalized, but still felt joy in the sense of permanency.
Gov. Steve Bullock joined the families, and thanked them for opening their homes. He also thanked all the organizations providing services to make adoptions possible.
“This work is not easy,” he said.