Jennifer Brooks
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The four newest members of the Dubra family crowded around the screen, waiting for the judge to make it official.

“All right, everyone. I’m about to sign the decree,” Hennepin County Judge Amy Dawson told the smiling faces on the Zoom call last week. “What I’d like everyone to do is take your microphones off mute so we can celebrate together.”

Most years, National Adoption Day is party time at the Hennepin County courthouse. There are balloons, games, face-painting stations and crowds of kids and their overjoyed new parents, grandparents, family and friends.

But there’s a pandemic on, so this year the celebration moved online and spread itself out across the entire month of November. Dawson officiated at one Zoom adoption after another. The preschooler who instructed the court to address him as “Big King.” The family with so many members on the call, they filled two entire computer screens. The young girls who testified under oath that they were going to bake cookies to celebrate as soon as their adoptions went through.

And the Dubra siblings, ages 13, 12, 11 and 8, adopted last Tuesday at 9 a.m. by Hardat and Monica Dubra of Brooklyn Park.

“The kids give a lot of joy,” said Monica Dubra.

The middle of a pandemic isn’t the perfect time to adopt. But the Dubras — parents of nine and foster parents to more than 150 youngsters over the past two decades — could tell you there’s no such thing as the perfect time.

“If you wait for a perfect life, you’ll never get anywhere,” said Monica Dubra, who grew up in Guyana, South America, as one of 16 siblings raised in a two-bedroom house. It’s not the size of your house or the size of your bank account that matters, she said. It’s the size of your heart.

“You need a family and you need someone to love you. Simple stuff,” she said. “I cannot imagine not helping when I could help.”

The Dubras have five grown children, four biological, one adopted as an infant. Their four youngest — we’re keeping their names out of the paper for now — are siblings who lost their mother and came to the Dubra family through the foster care system.

The two girls first, in 2016. Their brothers, who had been sent to two different foster homes, joined the family two years later.

The children didn’t want to be separated from each other again and the Dubras didn’t want to be separated from them.

“They’ve been with me so long,” Monica Dubra said, “they’ve become a part of me.”

The children call her Grandma.

“What do you think,” she asked them one day, “about Grandma adopting you?”

It took time and it took patience to get everyone to Adoption Day, all dressed in their matching “Officially A Dubra” T-shirts.

“Do you agree that you will love this child and give them lots of affirmation — and cookies — for the rest of your life?” Dawson asked each adoptive parent.

“I do,” they promised.

And with that, they were family.

“People smile and cry and hoot and holler on Zoom just like they do in the courtroom,” Dawson said. “People are so resilient. Joy finds a way and love finds a way.”

Twenty-one children were adopted, or are in the process of being adopted, into 13 families in Hennepin County this Adoption Month. But there are 128 more kids waiting for a family in Hennepin County. Older kids, sibling groups, kids with special needs. Kids not sure anyone wants to adopt a kid like them.

“You get to know and work with so many wonderful kids who just need a second chance,” said Melissa Sherlock, the county’s program manager for foster care and adoption. “They need a stable family, they need the love and support of stable parents who are going to be there for them forever.”

Each time she welcomes a child into her home, Monica Dubra remembers the first person who was kind to her in America. It was 1978 and their flight from Guyana had dropped the young immigrant family at JFK Airport in New York with no idea how they were supposed to make their connecting flight to relatives in Minnesota.

“When we left our country, they didn’t allow us to come with any money. We came penniless and we had two little kids,” she said. “We sat in the airport all night long in New York. The next day, we found out we had to go from Kennedy to LaGuardia.” Hardat Dubra walked outside, hoping to sell his wedding ring for enough money for cab fare. There, he met a man who heard the story, bundled the entire family in a taxi and paid their way to LaGuardia. They forgot to ask his name. But they’ve never forgotten him.

“Part of that kindness that he did, makes me do what I do,” said Monica Dubra, who prays for that stranger every day. “His kindness carried over to all these children. If somebody helped you, you must help others.”

For more information about Minnesota’s waiting kids, visit: www.mnadopt.org/waiting-kids.

jennifer.brooks@startribune.com

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @stribrooks