BUFFALO, N.Y. - When Jeff and Juliana Westra went to Erie County Child and Family Services to learn about becoming foster parents, they never imagined they would end up as a family of five.
After nearly a year of fostering three children, Jeff and Juliana, and nine-year-old Vicki, four-year-old Arianna and three-year-old Michael became a family in the eyes of the court.
More than a dozen loved ones and social workers packed into Judge Margaret Szczur's courtroom for the adoption ceremony.
Ask mom and dad, and they'll tell you they were a family right from the start.
"We always tell the story, Michael walked up to me and grabbed me on the side of the head and kissed me on the top of the head. The moment the three of them walked out of the room, we knew," said Jeff Westra.
The couple tried for years to have children of their own, and after much heartbreak, they turned to adoption and found a love they never thought possible.
They originally wanted to adopt one or two children, but after meeting the kids, they knew they had to bring home all three.
Placing siblings together is often a challenge social workers face. It's hard to find people who are willing and able to adopt multiple children.
"[We feel] love, complete, happy. I've been feeling such joy for months, and to have it finalized I just know that bubble is never going to pop. I know there are going to be hard days, but the appreciation they have for us and us for them...it's just an amazing joy," said Juliana Westra.
To learn more about Child and Family Services' Foster Care and Adoption Program, call (716) 882-0555 or visit www.cfsbny.org.