Holding her newly adopted daughter Isabella in her arms Thursday, Michele Shaffer put things in perspective:
''God gave them to us for a reason,'' she said, staring into the eyes of the 2-year-old and then glancing around the courtroom to keep track of any of her other youngsters who may have wandered away from her husband, Neal.
The Hubbard Township couple was among three families featured on Adoption Day in Trumbull County. It was the county's ninth official Adoption Day, a day when Probate Judge Thomas A. Swift goes public in approving the permanent family placements.
And for the Shaffer family, it was the third time they took part in the festivities.
''We've been foster parents for 14 or 15 children over the last seven years. And four of them just never left,'' said Neal Shaffer, a trouble-shooter for Greenbriar Rail Service in Austintown.
Several years earlier at the public ceremony, the couple adopted Charles, 13, and William, 12. Then later, 7-year-old Hunter was adopted by the family, joining their biological daughter, Chelsey, 16.
Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
Cindy Bower of Kinsman, right, joyously plays with her newly adopted son, Jaden Bower, 19 months, during the adoption hearings Thursday at Trumbull County Courthouse while celebrating Adoption Day.
''My daughter Chelsey is great with her brothers and her little sister. She has seen more than most 16 year olds,'' said Michele Shaffer, a stay-at-home mom who tends to the breakfast, lunch, dinner, the cleaning, soccer games and everything else that comes with a larger family.
''These kids come to you with nothing, only the clothes on their back. But teachers have told us the kids seem more respectful and considerate of others,'' she said.
Her tips for quick ways to feed the busy family: ''It's all about pasta.''
Besides the Shaffers, Swift used the large third-floor courtroom decorated with balloon figures to hear adoption reports and approve two other placements:
James and Cindy Bower of Kinsman adopted 19-month-old Jaden, who has been with the family since he was 4 months old and enjoys pushing his toy tractors around and swinging on his swing set. He joins a brother Zachary, 9, and sister Lindsey, 7.
Lisa Bellin of Cortland adopted15-month-old Landon, who has been with his new mother since he was five weeks old and who pranced around the courtroom while Swift heard the official report from a Children Services specialist.