CHIPLEY - Judge Christopher Patterson presides over a variety of legal cases in the 14th Judicial Circuit, but the judge says few give him as much joy as finalizing adoptions and bringing families together.

CHIPLEY - Judge Christopher Patterson presides over a variety of legal cases in the 14th Judicial Circuit, but the judge says few give him as much joy as finalizing adoptions and bringing families together.

Patterson was able to help the Guardian Ad Litem program and Department of Children and Families celebrate two such unions recently as Washington County commemorated National Adoption Awareness Month.

"You've found your forever families," Patterson told three children who transitioned from foster care to adoption. "I wish you all much happiness."

Jamie and Nancy Messer and Scout and Brian Adams are two local couples who say their families are now complete through the adoption process.

"God just placed it on our hearts to adopt, and we have just followed God's plan," said Scout Adams. "Now, we have four boys. We feel blessed and amazed that God would entrust us with such a precious gift."

The Adams, who have adopted more than one child, encourages others to consider adoption as well.

"It's extremely rewarding, and if just one family out of every three churches in America would adopt, there would be no more children in our country without forever homes," she said.

As part of the ceremony, Judge Patterson presented each mother with a gold dollar coin, to be passed onto the children when they turned 18, a tradition he began for all adoptions he finalizes.

"I may be long forgotten by that time, but this coin is a reminder of the significance of this day," said Patterson. "May these children never forget they are loved."

Local Guardian Ad Litem volunteer Lavon Collins says seeing children adopted is the ultimate reward.

"As Guardian Ad Litems, we are the voice and the advocate for the children," said Collins. "Your heart aches for them because you know they are often living in horrible circumstances. I've had one of my children adopted since volunteering, and it does my heart good knowing these kids are going to a good home and that they will be loved and protected."

Those wishing to have more information on how to begin steps to adopting a child, call Florida's Adoption Information Center at 1-800-96-ADOPT.