Dressed in a fancy white dress and surrounded by hundreds of stuffed animals, on Saturday little Ana Elizabeth became a permanent part of the Brower family.
Eighteen families finalized adoptions at Adoption Saturday held at the Hamilton County Courthouse in Webster City.
The finalization of Ana's adoption to Ann Michelle and Delmer Brower marks the third adoption for the Fort Dodge couple.
Ana Elizabeth Brower peeks over the shoulder of big brother Jeremy as her adoption by the Brower family is finalized in a Hamilton County court Saturday morning. The Brower family took part in the Adoption Saturday events.
The Browers both grew up in Utah. About five years after they were married, the couple were told they would be unable to have children.
"So, we started with the adoption process. Five years later, my oldest son, Jeremy, joined our family," she said. The adoption was handled through a private adoption agency. A couple years later, son Kennan, joined the family.
While looking for resources to help Kennan, born with fetal alcohol syndrome, and pursuing the adoption of two girls in Missouri, the Brower's social worker at the private agency pointed them to foster parent training. They became licensed and began taking in children who were in need of foster care.
Ana came to the family at the age of two weeks in December 2012. Ann Michelle Brower said in June 2013, the birth mother approached the family about possibly adopting the infant.
"We said we would love to and here we are today," she said.
Brothers Jeremy, 14, and Kennan, 9, are also glad to welcome a little sister.
"It feels nice to have another sibling," said Jeremy. "This time it's a girl, so that's a little different."
Kennan said he looked forward to having another birthday to celebrate with cake.
Juvenile Court Judge Adria Kester presided over the adoption hearing and said she was glad to have a special event taking place in the court room Saturday.
"We don't always have fun in juvenile court but we really like to have these adoptions. It's a fun day for us and I know it's a fun day for you," she told the Browers.
Eighteen families from across North Central and Northwest Iowa took part in Adoption Saturday. After finalizing the adoption in the courtroom, the new families were invited to have a family portrait done and had a chance to celebrate with refreshments. The newly adopted children were given stuffed animals to take home.
Bambi Schroeder of Iowa KidsNet said the day was a long time coming for many of the families.
"Families are here because they have a love and caring for children, and a dedication to the process of creating a forever family," Schroeder said. The children must live with the families in a foster care setting for a minimum of 180 days before they can seek to make the arrangement permanent.
"All of these families today have just passed that date. So we wanted to celebrate and do the adoptions all together," she said.
Schroeder said the process all begins with a call to KidsNet, followed by training and matching of up families with children for foster care. The children range in age from infant to 17, but there are even exceptions to that rule.
"We had Adoption Friday in Waterloo, and there was an adult who was adopted by a foster family," she said. "He had never been adopted and needed a permanent family - just like a young child."
Schroeder said her agency provides support for families before, during and after adoptions take place.
"We now have what's called post-adoption services, which families can sign up for," she said. The program offers assistance and support for parents until the child reaches 18.
There is a need for more foster parents, especially those who can welcome sibling groups into their homes.
"The last thing we want to see is a child separated from siblings," she said.
For more information about foster care or adoption, call Iowa KidsNet at (800) 243-0756 or www.Iowakidsnet.com.
Delmer Brower said he was glad that Ana was now officially his daughter.
"She already was my daughter, but now it's official. We're glad she's a Brower," he said. "It's been exciting to get to adopt Ana."
He said his family will continue to open their home to foster children and doesn't rule out the possibility of adopting more children.
"We both came from large families," he said. "Having four is great and we've had up to seven in the house before."