MARIETTA - "Bye bye," yelled Mary Elizabeth Cox to the colorful bouquet of balloons floating up, up, into the sky above Washington County Children Services Monday afternoon.
Just a month shy of her second birthday, Mary Elizabeth - or "Izzy" according to the moniker on her shirt - was not 100 percent sure why so many people she loved were gathered around her, letting go of balloons bearing her name. But her family knew.
"We're just relieved that she's finally ours forever," said Izzy's father, Jim Cox, 41, of Belpre.
Photo by Jasmine Rogers
Beth and Jim Cox, far right and second from right, prepare to release balloons with friends and family Monday at Washington County Children Services. The celebration was to honor the finalization of their adoption of 2-year-old Mary Elizabeth, pictured in the foreground.
Just an hour before the balloon ceremony, Izzy officially became a member of the Cox family at the Washington County Courthouse, joining her biological half-sister, Kaleigh, 5, who the Cox family adopted almost two years ago and her 11-year-old foster brother Dylan, who now has "three girls to look after," also counting his biological sister, he joked.
The process of adoption can be drawn out and tiring, but it is more than worth it, said Izzy's mother Beth Cox, 45.
"When we started, it was because we were unable to have children. It took four years of fostering to be able to adopt. We've built such strong relationships with these kids...It's so worth it," she said.
A Closer Look
Washington County Children Services adoptions.
* 2012: 7
* 2013: 9
* 2014 (to date): 4
* Currently: Searching for homes for two children.
The family was surrounded by loved ones for the big event. Izzy's grandparents, uncles and former foster family all posed for photos and laughed at little Izzy, who was happy to ham it up for the onlookers.
Beth and Jim also saved a surprise for them. Up until it was read on the official legal document, Izzy's parents had kept secret what her name was to be. Mary Elizabeth was an homage to Jim's mother Mary, to Beth, and to other ancestors.
"My favorite part of the day was seeing my mom's reaction to her name," recalled Jim.
Though Monday marked a huge milestone for the Cox family, Izzy is not exactly new in the Cox household. She has lived with the family for a year and a half, and has fallen into the routine.
"We play dolls, swim in the pool," said Kaleigh shyly.
To celebrate their official start as Izzy's parents, Jim and Beth are taking Izzy on a trip to Columbus this week, where they will visit the Columbus Zoo and have time to bond one-on-one.
Washington County Children Services helped facilitate the adoption and lots of staff were on hand for the celebration Monday as well.
Adopting local children - like Izzy - has several benefits, said adoption case worker Tami Downs.
"I think one of the nice things is we're right here in Marietta. If there's a problem or concern, we have access to our local community services. We know how to connect people with resources," she said.
Washington County Children Services completed nine adoptions in 2013 and has completed four this year.
It is actively seeking a forever home for two children.
To find out more about local adoption or foster parenting, contact Children Services at 373-3485.