John Cadiz Klemack
Nearly 150 children were adopted Friday in a ceremony at the courthouse in Monterey Park. It was a victory for an agency that's been under fire. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.
Nearly 150 children were legally adopted at a courthouse in Monterey Park Friday, marking 25 years of service for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
Among the parents promising to care for those 144 children were Charlene and Tom Clark, who took Niveah Clark into their home on National Adoption Day. Niveah, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, is the sixth child the Clarks have adopted, and the fifth with special needs.
"Because we love the kids, they need homes," Charlene Clark said. "You have to love them. Somebody has to love them."
However, in recent months the department has taken heat for children who have fallen through the cracks, including Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale, who was allegedly beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend after several attempts to get social workers to intervene.
Still, organizations like the Alliance for Children’s Rights view moments like Friday's as a potentially life-saving moment for some kids.
"I know there's a lot of negative stories about (the Department of Children and Family Services) but, but there's positives and they're at this courthouse today," said Cynthia Billey, director with the Alliance for Children’s Rights.
For Tristan Hart, Friday marked the second time he's been adopted, and the teenager hopes it’s his last.
"I feel special because nobody wanted to take me cause I was 16 years old," Hart said. "Because you actually feel like somebody actually loves you now."
The department’s director, Phillip Browning, said Los Angeles County is in need of willing parents looking to foster and adopt children.
"One of the biggest challenges we have in LA County today is actually placing young children who are detained from their parents," Browning said.
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