Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A Hillsborough judge makes it official: Peter Pan Boys have a new home

The Peter Pan Boys, people in the system called them, four stair-step brothers who needed a home together. Together being the key word. Ray Mull and his wife met them at an adoption event. Mull was an only child who always wanted a big family. Good thing their own only child Stefani agreed, since it was Stefani who a small boy named Jacob attached himself to that day and would not let go. They didn't pick Jacob and his brothers, the parents would later joke. Jacob picked Stefani.

Fast-forward, and there they sat Friday in a massive courtroom at the Hillsborough County Courthouse: the parents; Stefani, 18; and brothers James, Justin, Jerry and the aforementioned Jacob. With dozens of others, they waited their turn to be deemed an official family on National Adoption Day.

I ask Jerry, 10 and freckled, what he thinks of all this. "Cool," he says.

And Jake, 7 and missing a front tooth: "I get to have parents," he says.

This was a different sort of day for a place that deals daily with abuse and neglect and children who linger in foster care. Thirty-two sons and daughters would be made official on the word of a judge. Make that judges, because they take turns. Days like this don't come often enough.

It was a long road to here. Ray and his wife, Lisa Cooley, met one group of siblings only to have the case fall through, then met others who weren't the right fit.

Meanwhile the boys — now 15, 13, 10 and 7 — were sometimes separated and stayed places that didn't work out either.

"Four boys?" people say to the hopeful parents now. "Are you insane?"

But they will tell you which one likes books and horror movies, who loves Star Wars, which ones are sports nuts, how they all love to watch wrestling together, Dad included.

And the youngest? "Jake is just Jake," they will tell you, a boy who wakes up in the morning singing, about school, about Elvis, about whatever his dreams brought him.

As they wait, a mom adopts four little ones. Grandparents who helped raise grandchildren make it official, grandfather and daughter wiping away tears when the judge says "What a happy day this is." A family with three daughters tells me they agreed they wanted a son and brother and met Isaiah. His file says Isaiah spent 10 of his 12 years in the system. Now he has a home, not to mention sisters.

On this day, stern-faced bailiffs find themselves applauding. Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan, tough as any, pronounces a family whole with a catch in her voice.

When their case is called, the parents and Stefani and the boys raise their right hands and listen to the judge and answer the questions. Finally, they are officially a family.

Then, a surprise: They are given the beautiful framed portrait of the four smiling boys together, one that was part of he Heart Gallery, a photo display of up-for-adoption kids you can see at www.heartgallerytampabay.org. In this picture you can see how they got the name Peter Pan boys: It's in the tilt of their eyes, their identical smiles, their hope.

Afterward there are pictures, and cake, and then a boy who wakes up singing got to go home with his brothers, not to mention the rest of his family.

A Hillsborough judge makes it official: Peter Pan Boys have a new home 11/20/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 21, 2009 12:03am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. North Korean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology

    World

    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will.

    A woman watches a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday,. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan's maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]
  2. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Samantha Bee on Florida felonies

    State Roundup

    Comedian Samantha Bee traveled to Florida, where she says "retirees and democracy go to die," to shed light on how the state makes it difficult for felons to regain the right to vote.

    Samantha Bee hosts Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. Bee portrayed some of Florida’s felonies as not so serious on her show.
  3. For some, Memorial Day comes around more than just once a year

    Military

    ST. PETERSBURG — It is shortly before nine on a Friday morning, and the heat is already approaching unbearable levels at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

    Iles carefully digs up the St. Augustine grass so that it will continue to grow when it is placed back on the gravesite. He tries not to disturb the root base.
  4. State budget uncertainty has school districts 'very concerned'

    K12

    While waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to approve or veto the Legislature's education budget, the people in charge of school district checkbooks are trying hard to find a bottom line.

    It has not been easy.

    The unsettled nature of Florida’s education budget has left school districts with questions about how they will make ends meet next year. [iStockphoto.com]
  5. Ernest Hooper: Removing Confederate symbols doesn't eliminate persistent mindset

    Human Interest

    The debate has begun about removing a Confederate statue from outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse, and its removal is long overdue.

    Robert E. Lee Elementary, 305 E. Columbus Drive in Tampa, originally opened its doors in the early 1910s as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School. [Times file]