At age 19, Monyay just enjoyed her first official hug from her new mom. The embrace happened at a Bradenton youth care provider center.
With the signing of a legal document making the adult adoption official, Monyay also has a new surname — Paskalides.
The teen, who was placed in a group home for foster care at age 11, was adopted by her caseworker and mentor, Leah Paskalides.
“I am so pleased, so honored, to sign this official document. With my signature, it is official,” Judge Teri Dees said at Tuesday’s ceremony at the Safe Children’s Coalition, which shared its video footage via Zoom.
“Being told ‘no’ so many times, to hear that ‘yes’ and to hear them pronounce her as my mom, it’s something that’s like, oh my gosh, this is for real,” Monyay told reporters at Tampa Bay’s Fox13.
Before taking on the title of Mom, Leah Paskalides worked as Monyay’s caseworker and mentor with the Safe Children Coalition.
Because of her job’s requirements, Paskalides, Safe Children’s adoptions assistant manager, had to wait to adopt Monyay until she had aged out of the foster care program. She was originally Monyay’s case manager and then mentor as the bond grew between the two, according to the center.
“Throughout Monyay’s journey in case, they remained in contact and sharing a close connection,” Safe Children posted on Facebook. “We are so happy for them.”
“She was always a kid that did not deserve to go through life without a support system of a family,” Paskalides told Fox13.
As an adult, Monyay was able to OK the adult adoption. And now the new mother and daughter hope to raise awareness that teens, too, are in need of permanent homes, so they agreed to share their story.
“It was important to me that she knew that she was wanted by somebody, that somebody loved her,” Paskalides told reporters. “I could say that as many times as I want, but actions speak louder than words.”
“It’s never too late because I’m grown but I’m still being adopted,” Monyay Paskalides said. “Just because it didn’t happen then it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen.”
Adult adoption is legal in Florida and requires the consent of both the adoptive parent and the adopted adult and a petition to the court, according to Florida’s Children First. Birth parents do not have to consent to the adult adoption.