COUNCIL BLUFFS — The judge handed the little girl the gavel and told her to pound the table, and for an instant, the girl controlled her own destiny.
She brought the gavel down and at that moment became Ariana Welsh, a 5-year-old who was a foster child no more, but a kid with a permanent, adoptive family.
Pottawattamie County officials on Saturday celebrated Ariana's adoption and that of 18 other children into southwest Iowa families. Similar ceremonies took place in Omaha and dozens of others places across the nation, as Saturday was National Adoption Day.
Adoption for Ariana and many others meant escaping chaotic lives in which their biological relatives handed them back and forth, or the foster system placed them here, there.
Ariana lived as the Welsh family's foster child for more than a year before the Welshes, of Atlantic, managed to adopt her. She joined a family with two other girls, two parents, two cats, a dog and a turtle. They also have another foster child, a 2-year-old boy.
Ariana is “just a happy, bubbly, energetic girl,” said Tasha Welsh, who became Ariana's permanent mother Saturday. “I call her my Energizer bunny because she just goes, goes, goes.”
At one point Ariana held four balloons. She also had a purple teddy bear and a toy stuffed leopard, each of which routinely hit the floor and got scooped up again.
Earlier Saturday, the celebration at the Pottawattamie County Courthouse included cookies and punch, face painting, craft activities and family photographs.
District Associate Judge Craig Dreismeier told the audience that he and his wife adopted a boy close to a dozen years ago.
“By saying yes, you open up your hearts and your lives to these children,” Dreismeier said. “We are the lucky ones.”
A professional photographer clicked off shots for a family portrait. Ariana then asked if she had become a Welsh.
No, that moment remained about 30 minutes away.
They ate cookies. The girls, 6-year-old Adelynn, 5-year-old Aubrey and Ariana, used Crayolas to color butterfly and flower images. Ariana wanted her mom to make a paper plane out of her coloring project. Her mother declined.
“We're going! It's time!” Tasha Welsh said as they were summoned into the courtroom.
“Ariana, are you ready?” District Associate Judge Susan Larson Christensen asked. “Everybody ready?”
The judge asked the parents several questions and then Ariana signed her name.
“Cool. Good, good job,” Christensen said. Then the judge told Ariana to bang the gavel after a countdown.
Ariana whacked the table with the gavel.
The judge gave her a Peanuts blanket. Ariana jumped up and down.
“Congratulations, Ariana,” the judge said. “Ariana Welsh, huh?”
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