By Molly Callahan Record-Journal staff
(photo credit: Dave Zajac/Record-Journal)
MERIDEN — For many, 12 children seems out of the
question. But city native Judith Ortiz never gave it a second thought.
Ortiz, 48, has fostered 10 children since 2003.
Combine that with her two biological children, and family get-togethers, like
Mother’s Day, can get rather large.
“We all come together on Thanksgiving,
Christmas, the big ones,” Ortiz said. “Everyone piles in here.”
Ortiz had an important choice to make in 2011,
when four of the children she was fostering became available for adoption.
Lacking any suitable relatives to take over as caretakers, the adoption was
first offered to Ortiz.
“It was a scary thought, not something I ever
thought I’d do,” Ortiz said.
Eventually she said yes.
“I talked about it with my (biological) kids and
they were ecstatic,” Ortiz said. “My daughter posted something on Facebook
right away saying that her family had grown by four.”
On Dec. 6, 2011, Andres, 15; twins Adelina and
Angelica, 11; and Luis, 8; became part of the Ortiz family. Ortiz said they
were so excited that they even wanted to take her and her biological children’s
— Jasmine Rivera, 27, and Jonathan Rivera, 20 — names.
“Obviously they all already had names, but they
took ours (the Ortizes’ first names) as middle names,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz remembers the day in the courthouse when
she was officially granted parental rights. “It was packed with family, my
co-workers, friends, my first foster children,” she said. “I gave each of the
children a cross on a chain to commemorate their new birth as being adopted.”
Ortiz was recognized in 2012 by Sen. Richard
Blumenthal and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute to represent
the state as an Angel in Adoption, an award that honors “those who have made an
exceptional contribution on behalf of a child in need of a family,” as
described in a CCAI handbook.
“I told my friend at school last week that I
feel like the happiest and luckiest family that ever got adopted,” Adelina
As of Feb. 1, 2012, the most recent data
available on the Department of Children and Families’ website, a total of 4,500
children were in foster care.
Gary James, a social worker with the Meriden
DCF, said this week that 174 children were in foster care in the city. May is
National Foster Care month.
Social workers try to keep siblings together
when looking for permanent homes for them.
“Having been taken from their home due to abuse
or neglect issues, the last thing we’d want to do is separate them,” James
said. For Ortiz, the experience has been “rewarding, but challenging.”
“I wanted to change one life, one child at a
time,” Ortiz said. “You’re forever theirs, even if they go home to their
Ortiz said she strives to provide for her
adoptive children a connection to their roots by keeping in touch with their
biological family, and trying recipes that represent their heritage in Mexico
“I just want to make sure their dreams are fulfilled,”
she said, indicating that her adopted children want to grow up to be everything
from a news anchor to an FBI agent. “Sometimes things go wrong, but you just
have to let these kids know that you love them, and that you’re not going to
give up on them.”
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