Though Kathleen McEnerny has been raising 17-month-old Andrew since the day he left the hospital, it wasn’t until last Saturday that she could officially call herself his mother.
A little over a year and a half ago, McEnerny, who is single, decided she wanted to adopt a child. She completed a 10-week course on how to be a foster parent and looked forward to taking a local child into her Arlington home.
"There are so many kids right here in Arlington that need help and I wanted to be available to one of them," said McEnerny, 44, a grant writer for a nonprofit organization.
The process just happened a little quicker than she expected. Less than a month after receiving her certification to become a foster parent, a social worker called and gave her 24-hour notice that they would be bringing her a 3-day-old baby named Andrew.
His 23-year-old mother, an Arlington resident, already had three other children and gave Andrew up for adoption at birth because she felt she could not afford to take care of a fourth.
At first, McEnerny was overwhelmed, having little training in how to care for a newborn. But with the support of county social workers, friends and other foster care parents, she learned on the fly.
It didn’t take very long for McEnerny to fall in love with Andrew, and within a few weeks she was already considering applying to become his legal parent.
"Kathleen immediately made Andy a part of her life and provided a home for him to grow up in," said Jenna Duffy, an Arlington County social worker.
Having a baby, literally, arrive at her door unexpectedly meant big changes for McEnerny. "Before that day I had a really active social life," McEnerny said. "Then the focus became all about the baby. And it has made my life richer."
Last Saturday, McEnerny, along with two other single mothers and three married couples, became the legal guardians of 16 Arlington children. In a ceremony at the Arlington Courthouse, Judge William Newman certified the adoptions and congratulated the parents for "creating a family or expanding their family."
A total of 19 children in Arlington have been adopted this year, and another 15 are going through the final stages of the process, said Marshal Allgeier, an assistant county manager. That is an increase of more than 40 percent from last year.
"Arlington is very committed to help strengthening family ties and fostering nurturing homes for our children," Allgeier said during the Nov. 18 event.
The families at the ceremony came from an array of backgrounds and each had their own reasons for wanting to adopt.
Bryan Meckes and his wife Terry were becoming the parents of Adrianna, the third child they have adopted. The couple already have a 15-year-old son originally from Romania and a 5-year-old daughter born in Guatemala.
The Meckes, who recently moved to Pennsylvania, said they were pleased to be able to adopt a needy child from the community. Adrianna, who will be 2 next month, never lived with her birth mother and has spent time in several foster homes.
Sometimes adoptions occur much closer to home. Deborah Cosco, and her husband Michael, adopted her cousin’s 3-year-old daughter Alexis.
The cousin was struggling with a drug addiction and in and out of rehab at the time of her daughter’s birth. The county revoked her parental rights, and Cosco agreed to take Alexis into her home. Though the Coscos officially adopted Alexis, the birth mother is still a part of her life, visiting at least once a month.
"We all have the same goals for Alexis, so we have put our egos aside and look at what’s best for her," Cosco said.
As the families were preparing to leave the ceremony, McEnerny discussed her Thanksgiving plans. She will be sharing the holiday with another family that recently adopted a child, and said she couldn’t wait for her first Thanksgiving as a mother.
"This is such a blessing," McEnerny said. "This is will be a very happy Thanksgiving."