BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — November is National Adoption Awareness Month and three Cameron County children were officially adopted in time to be with their forever family on Thanksgiving.

Family and friends gathered at the Cameron County Courthouse today, as Judge Adolofo E. Cordova Jr. presided over the consummation hearings of the three children.

Amelia Juarez of Harlingen became a first-time mother today as she officially adopted Iris Lucia Juarez.

“I’ve been wanting to be a mom for a while and it’s been a process,” said Juarez.

She said the process was worth it and was feeling blessed and excited to grow her family by adopting a second child.

“I’m just excited it’s finally over, she’s adopted and now next month I’ll be adopting my boy, my son, so we’re looking forward to that and my family will be complete,” she said.

The families celebrated after the hearings with cake, gifts, pictures, and many hugs.

An adoption supervisor with the Texas Department of Family Protective Services, Alexandra Hernandez, said the hearing was the first in-person adoption hearing since the pandemic began.

She said she hopes this is the first of many more to come and explained that there is still a great need for adoptions.

“In Cameron County, we have 66 children that are in the need of adoption, Hidalgo County we have 24 children, Starr County we have 1, Willacy County we have 4, in Kleberg County, we have 5 children. Just here in our unit alone, that is approximately a hundred and twenty-some children that are still in need for a family,” said Hernandez.

She said the total number of children in need of adoption in Texas is 2,902.

Hernandez explained that through collaborations with community partners, such as the Children’s Museum of Brownsville, they are able to help raise awareness about the need for adoption.

“Here in the Children’s Museum, it’s our 17th annual Heart Gallery. We currently have 27 children across region 11 that are looking for a forever family and you can see their beautiful pictures and a small bio of them and it’s just to kind of make more of a connection,” she said.

The Heart Gallery of South Texas will be displayed until the end of the year and Hernandez said it is proven to be a successful event.

“We’ve seen a lot of success where families that never knew that adoption was needed or that they were even interested, and they reach out to us. I know for this event I had two families that same night reach out to me like ‘hey we’re really interested, what’s the process?’” said Hernandez.

The executive director of the Children’s Museum of Brownsville, Felipe Peña, said the Heart Gallery is a touching experience that sparks peoples interest in helping the children.

 “It’s a joy for us to be able to put this event on and showcase the need because there is such a big need in our community,” said Peña.

He said he hopes the gallery will encourage people to consider adopting.

“We want every kid in whatever part of the world that they are in, especially here, to have loving homes where they can grow and flourish and be nourished, not only through meals but also through love,” he said.

For more information on adoption and the adoption process, you can visit the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website.