By Rick Neale, FLORIDA TODAY – Online Story and Photos

VIERA — Nathan Ebel, a boisterous blond 2-year-old, grinned and clutched a tan stuffed puppy moments before joining his new family. But first, his future brother Travis, 11, had to stand before a judge and vow a solemn oath in a packed courtroom: “Do you promise, swear or affirm that you will help keep his room clean so he doesn’t get in trouble?” Circuit Judge Charlie Crawford asked Travis, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Travis affirmed that he would. And Crawford proclaimed that Cocoa residents Tamera and Jason Ebel — Nathan’s birth uncle — were now the lad’s adoptive parents. “You know he gets two birthday celebrations now, don’t you?” Crawford asked the couple. “The day he was born. And the day he became your son.”

Thursday morning, nine Brevard County families welcomed 13 children into their fold during a special adoption ceremony at the Moore Justice Center in Viera. The event commemorated National Adoption Month. Close to 50 similar celebrations are scheduled this month across the state, the Florida Department of Children and Families reported.
Kids adopted Thursday ranged in age from a 1-year-old baby to a 15-year-old.

Brevard Family Partnership co-sponsored the annual event. The Melbourne non-profit organization serves as the local lead agency for adoption, foster care and independent-living transition for non-adopted young adults.

Today, 70 kids await adoption on the Space Coast, said spokesman Geo Ropert. About 40 of the children are matched with potential families.

Family members clapped and snapped photos during the adoption proceedings. Chick-fil-A provided free meals during a post-event reception in Courtroom 4D.

Palm Bay grandmother Mary Clark adopted Jah-Ree Parker, an almost 3-year-old toddler who wore a spiffy silver vest, white collared shirt and black tie for the occasion. “I was almost in tears,” Clark recalled of her turn before the judge. “This was a first for me — first for anyone in my family — that I would adopt after having four sons. “But this baby needed a home, and we love him so much. He is so smart,” she said.

Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or