Twenty-four children were officially adopted by Milwaukee-area families as a part of the county's annual Adoption Day celebration.
Many of the kids adopted have gone through the foster care system. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families says at any given time, as many as 6,000 children need foster care in the state.
WISN 12 News was given the opportunity to follow the Miller family through the process of officially adopting their daughter Zari on Friday. She has been in Mandi and Ben Miller's home since she was 4-weeks-old. She's now 3-years-old.
"We are here to adopt our daughter, Zari," said Mandi Miller. "It is really exciting, because it is the celebration of National Adoption Day, which is November 18, and it is National Adoption Awareness Month. So, the courthouse is really exciting today, and it's all just happy, happy days. You know, foster care has a lot of ups and downs, but today is just happy and joyful."
Miller says she knew she wanted to be a foster mom since she was in high school and first encountered a woman named Claire who was fostering kids. Completely coincidentally, Claire ended up being the Millers' court-appointed CASA worker while they fostered Zari. Miller says it was a complete full circle moment.
"Claire has watched this foster journey with us, and been there, and come to our house, and given Zari gifts, cookies and books," said Miller. "She's just wonderful. She was on the Zoom today watching the adoption. So in honour of that, Zari got the middle name 'Claire.'"
The Millers actually have five kids under the age of four in their house. They are fostering three other kids right now and have a biological baby girl, in addition to Zari. They say they hope to adopt two more of their foster children this spring.
"As a foster parent, the goal is always reunification, and when that goal is not safe or appropriate, that's hard for any family," said Miller. "We recognize that there is loss and trauma in any foster-to-adoption case, and we recognize the bittersweetness of today. But we can also hold that, at the same time with our excitement."
The Millers hope their story can inspire other adults to consider fostering children.
"I think foster care is a scary thing for families to really embark on," said Miller. "You don't know what's going to happen. But it is a need in our community, and we need more foster parents to step up and love these kids. Love them if they go back and love them if they stay."