By Hayley Kappes
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – Bradley Pollard may have been too young to know exactly what was going on in Bell County District Judge Rick Morris' courtroom on Friday, but it changed his life forever.
His older brother, Dylan, knew how big of a deal it was, however. The 7-year-old excitedly said to his parents, "Now we have Bradley forever."
Five other children like Dylan had their adoptions finalized Friday for Bell County's first Adoption Day. They now have a family to call their own.
Bradley got a new birth certificate Friday and picked James as his new middle name because it's the same as his older brother's.
James and Shelly Pollard of Austin wanted to adopt for the past year and a half. Their adoption agency contacted them six months ago after they found a 4-year-old boy who matched their criteria.
They met Bradley on April 23.
"After getting to spend some time with him, we knew right away that Bradley fit in with our family," said Shelly, drying away tears.
"We'd been through the baby thing, and we always wanted to give Dylan a little brother," James added. "We didn't know what to expect at first."
Bradley's biological mother was addicted to drugs and Child Protective Services found evidence that child abuse occurred in the household, prompting the agency to remove him.
Beth Howell, caseworker for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, performs extensive background checks on prospective families, delving into their medical and criminal history.
Caseworkers also match children who they deem would make a good fit in the family.
They take into consideration the number of children already in the family, what age parents would like their children and the child's background.
"Bradley's had behavioral problems in the past, but he has flourished in the Pollard's home," Howell said. "I think this is the perfect place for Bradley. He's found his home."
It's hard to find a match for most families. It's also difficult for relatively older children to get adopted, as most families desire infants.
The day offered a solemn reminder of the children in state care still waiting to find a stable home and a family to love them. More than 6,300 Texas children are eligible for adoption, according the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
The department launched its annual "Why Not Me?" campaign in honor of November's National Adoption Month. The campaign aims to shed light on the children who are being left behind in care of the state.
"People don't think it's a need in their community," said Chris Van Deusen, public information officer with the department. "We want to get the ball rolling with more families who are willing to adopt. What a big gift these families have given with opening their hearts for these children."
Morris' court handled all CPS cases filed in Bell county for the past 20 years. He said it's always an emotional day when he finalizes adoptions. Children are allowed to sit with him at the bench and bang the gavel, making their adoption official.
Morris knows how arduous the adoption process is for families. He adopted two children, one in 1976 and the other in 1980.
"It's a long process, and I think that's one reason why these families are so overjoyed," Morris said. "Many times these cases start out so sad but now these kids are getting a happy ending."
The Pollards are relieved they do not have to deal with state agencies anymore. Their little boy is home to stay.
"Bradley knew something big was going on today," Shelly said. "He knows he's a part of our family now."
Contact Hayley Kappes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559.