The Anderson family grew by five in the space of one hour Friday. And parents Carrie and Anthony Anderson were shedding happy tears as a result.
National Adoption Day in Kern County was held at the Juvenile Justice Center in east Bakersfield, as it is each year, to raise awareness about the need for more forever families for children in the foster care system.
But when the Andersons adopted five siblings — all between 2 and 6 years of age — during one hearing, they left Judge Raymonda Marquez both moved and amused.
"I'm told that you have been coaching football for the last 13 years," Marquez said to the adoptive father, whose family was doubling in size.
"I wonder ... whether you aren't secretly forming a football team of your own."
Jokes aside, the judge had high praise for the Andersons, who have three biological children, each of whom were also present in the courtroom.
"Mr. Anderson, it's my favorite moment when the father tears up," she said to the dad, who was indeed showing the emotion of someone taking on a lifetime of responsibility and dedicating a lifetime of love to Brandi, 6; Matthew, 4; Jeremiah, 3; and the 2-year-old twins, Elijah and Nathaniel.
At a news conference before the hearings began, Judge John Brownlee, one of four judges presiding over some 40 adoptions scheduled Friday, told those gathered he was adopted at birth by the Brownlee family.
"The opportunities they provided to me makes me the luckiest man on the face of the earth," he said.
Adoption Day is his favorite day of the year as a judge, Brownlee said, and the joy and love evident in those familial unions are polar opposite to the criminal cases he typically presides over — "basically death and destruction," he said.
Each adoption was a story in itself. In a nearby courtroom, Nong and Moua Vang, of Fresno, were asking the court to allow them to become the parents of 5-year-old Emma, a medically fragile foster child born with a condition that requires lifelong 24-hour care, with a trach and a feeding tube.
Adopting such a child might seem daunting for some, but for the Vangs, who have three young biological children, Emma was exactly who they were praying for.
When they brought her home as a foster daughter 20 months ago, Emma was in a wheelchair. But at Friday's event, dressed in a red princess skirt and a "Team Vang" T-shirt, Emma was walking and smiling and talking into a microphone provided by a videographer.
"There's nothing that can stop her doing what she wants to do," said Emma's new mom, who is a nurse by profession.
"It's life-changing," she said of the adoption. "But with unconditional love, these kids blossom."