CANTON — Zethaniel I. Parks wanted to be center of attention — rushing over to the podium to talk into the microphone.
With a boost up from his father, Daniel I., the precocious 3-year-old grabbed the top of the microphone and greeted everyone in the state Supreme Court courtroom with a "hello."
He was among five children adopted by four families Friday as St. Lawrence County Family Court and the county Department of Social Services celebrated National Adoption Day.
"It is wonderful our county can find parents that can provide places for these children," Family Court Judge Barbara R. Potter said.
Mr. Parks, an Army staff sergeant stationed at Fort Drum with the First Brigade, will retire shortly from the military after 20 years of service. The Watertown resident plans to spend most of his free time with his wife, Gail G., and two adopted children, Damion S., 6, and Zethaniel. The process of legalizing the adoptions had taken nearly three years.
"They are real smart," he said with a grin. "When I come home and see them, they just melt me down. I really do love them."
Zethaniel was energetic and spry after the ceremony, consuming a large piece of cake while keeping busy coloring. Each adopted child received a gift bag that included a stuffed animal and crayons.
Thomas M. and Theresa W. Cameron of Massena have adopted two other children and take care of a foster child. Joshua McGregor Cameron, 2, has two sisters who remain in foster care.
"We couldn't let him go," said Mr. Cameron, who commonly refers to Joshua as "The Runner" because of his tendency to run around the house. "He looks a lot like me."
National Adoption Day was started in 2000 by the Alliance for Children's Rights to raise awareness and finalize thousands of adoptions across the country.
St. Lawrence County Family Court is tracking 242 children in foster care. This year, the court hopes to finalize 21 adoptions of children in foster care compared with the 22 such adoptions finalized in 2007, 17 in 2006 and seven in 2005.