Grandmother Loretta Cuillo has a deep bond with nearly two-year-old Dream.
"We just love her so much. I’ve been there since she was born," said Cuillo, an adoptive mother of three. "It is just everything to us that she’s with us. It means a lot."
Dream officially went from granddaughter to daughter on Friday, as part of a special adoption event at the Trop called 'Home Run for the Holidays,' and this is Cuillo’s second time here.
"Brantley and Khelani, they were my son’s children," Cuillo said. "He was having problems, and he turned over his rights to the state in hopes that I would get them. And I did. He knew I would, and I adopted them last year."
Pinellas County court staff and judges took the adoption ceremony outside the courtroom at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, joining 24 children with 18 families this year in a gift this holiday season that will last a lifetime.
"We work hard all year to find families for these children and to create a great match, and it’s just a great time of year to help them celebrate and finally have their home," said Pam Mattice, an adoption and recruitment manager with Family Support Services of Suncoast.
It’s a home run of a different kind. Parents in their hearts and now by law, the families also had the evening to enjoy Enchant Christmas, all made possible through the Tampa Bay Rays’ partnership with the courts.
"We have a suite here at Tropicana field where every single game we host kids from the foster care system," said Brian Auld, the president of the Tampa Bay Rays. "We give them a chance to meet with perspective parents, and it’s really one of the better partnerships we’ve ever established."
Family Support Services said there were more than 2,600 children in the foster care system in Pinellas and Pasco counties last year, and it’s dropped to less than 1,800 children by the end of 2023.
"To think that these families will never be the same. They’re fully complete. They’re establishing these incredible relationships in front of our eyes, and it’s really truly wonderful," said Auld. "This is our second official year, but we’ve worked closely with kids in the foster care system and those looking for forever families for well over a decade."