3-year-old finds new East Lyme home on Adoption Day

Waterford — When Brian Doyle bought his wife, Kaye-Leigh, a 10-passenger van, he told her it wasn't a challenge.

"We don't have to fill it," he said.

Still, the East Lyme couple officially added another member to their family of five on Friday, adopting the spunky 3-year-old Wynnie while extended family and friends applauded and shared hugs and lollipops at Waterford Juvenile Court.

Wynnie's was one of several heartwarming adoption ceremonies Judge John C. Driscoll presided over on Friday, which was National Adoption Day.

Wynnie, who turns 4 on Tuesday, smiled brightly from the time she entered the court building to when she was huddled with her adoptive siblings — Liora, 9, and 2-year-old twins Gill and Joie — posing for photos and holding a sign reading, "Every adoption story is beautiful but ours is my favorite."

"She's a spitfire. She's always got something witty to say," said Kaye-Leigh Doyle, 29, who stays at home raising the kids and homeschooling Liora, while Brian Doyle, 33, works as a software engineer for Electric Boat. "Wynnie's only 16 months older than the twins, so they all kind of party all day together."

Unlike many children adopted at 3 years old, Wynnie will one day find photos of herself as an infant with her adoptive parents. That's because Kaye-Leigh Doyle's parents, Meg and Gary Mandelburg of Waterford, foster parented Wynnie for several months after her birth at the William W. Backus Hospital.

A few years later, when a subsequent foster home no longer was available long-term, the foster home reached out to Brian and Kaye-Leigh Doyle, who became licensed to adopt before the birth of their twins.

Meg Mandelburg said it was "amazing" to become the adoptive grandmother of one of her previous foster kids; the Mandelburgs have fostered 77 children over the last 13 years.

"It's probably the hardest privilege I can imagine having but it is a privilege," Gary Mandelburg said of foster parenting. "It's phenomenal to be able to break a cycle of kids in foster care, parents who were in foster care. To break that cycle is as good as it gets."

The Department of Children and Families said the state completed 519 adoptions and transferred guardianship for 352 children for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. The totals represent 83 more adoptions and 29 more transfers compared to the prior year.

"Much of our work involves a lot of complex decision making along with the families we serve and sometimes a lot of heartache," DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said in a statement. "So when we get the chance to celebrate adoption, it is an important reminder that child welfare accomplishes a lot of good in supporting permanent family homes for very deserving children."

DCF says that as of Aug. 1, 2018, there were 4,329 children in foster care, a reduction of 9.4 percent over the last seven years. Additionally, 42.2 percent currently are living with relatives or kin, which is double the percentage compared to seven years ago.

That Wynnie's ceremony took place on Adoption Day, as adoption proceedings occurred in juvenile courts across the state and country, was "providential," Kaye-Leigh Doyle said.

"It's so special but when you're adopting a foster baby, it's hard because somebody's greatest sorrow is someone else's greatest joy," she said. "It's hard to be a part of but we are so joyful. How special this occasion is, is a mirror on how special Wynnie is."

Parents interested in adopting or foster parenting can call 1 (888) KID-HERO or visit DCF's website on foster and adoption services, bit.ly/DCFadopt.

b.kail@theday.com

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