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Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 22, 201412:00 PM EST

Judge: 'This is my favorite day of the year'

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Circuit Judge David Gooding’s courtroom was decorated with twinkling lights, balloons and wrapped gifts.

It was filled with love.

In a courtroom full of family members and adoption advocates, Gooding presided over the adoption of 15 children into nine families.

“This is my favorite day of the year,” Gooding said Friday morning as he looked around Courtroom 406 at the Duval County Courthouse.

Of all the orders a circuit judge might enter, he said, none is more significant than a final order of adoption.

“It changes the future,” Gooding said.

Adoptions in Duval and Nassau counties are handled by Family Support Services of North Florida. CEO Lee Kaywork said more than 3,000 children have been adopted since the agency was founded in 2001.

The goal for the fiscal year is 190 adoptions before June 30. As of Friday, they were at 147.

“I think we’ll make it,” he said.

Gooding, who has presided over hundreds of adoptions, said the ceremony and final orders of adoption for the parents and their new families were merely formalizing what already was in their hearts.

“We’re grafting branches onto family trees,” he said. “I’m hoping, with what we do here, we can change the world for the better.”

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