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Tampa family officially unites on National Adoption Day

Payton Andersen, 13, left, poses for pictures with her new family Friday — parents Steve and Lisa Andersen and her sister, Mariah, 12. “I always thought there’s got to be someone out there for me,” Payton says. “And there was.”

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

Payton Andersen, 13, left, poses for pictures with her new family Friday — parents Steve and Lisa Andersen and her sister, Mariah, 12. “I always thought there’s got to be someone out there for me,” Payton says. “And there was.”

TAMPA — The lanky, curly-haired teen knew disappointment.

The first family seemed great, but one of the children declared he didn't want another sibling. The second family had too many rules.

Then Payton, 13, met the Andersens.

Steve and Lisa Andersen, now in their 40s, were adopted as children. They had a 12-year-old adopted daughter Mariah. And they wanted another girl.

On Friday, after five years in the foster system, Payton became an Andersen.

"I always thought there's got to be someone out there for me," she said after a judge signed the adoption papers. "And there was."

Payton was one of 25 children adopted Friday at the Hillsborough County Courthouse as part of National Adoption Day. It's the one day each year when bailiffs hand out teddy bears.

Little boys wore suits.

Toddlers posed for photos on judge's laps.

Then there was Payton, in skater kid shoes with an iPhone in her pocket.

Her family wanted a teenager, someone Mariah's age.

They first met in a Brandon mall in April, Payton's case manager and guardian ad litem by her side. She was shy at first, but started to warm up — particularly to Mariah.

A few weeks in, the couple took her and Mariah to Boing! Jump Center in Palm River. As Payton soared through the air, springing off a giant trampoline next to the entire family, she thought, "They're pretty fun."

When asked what they like about each other, the siblings roll their eyes.

"You can tell the truth," their dad says.

They have a secret handshake. They know each other's crushes. They send messages on Facebook even in the same room.

Payton moved into their Valrico home July 28.

The Andersens took her to make her own adoption: a spotted rat terrier named Oreo.

She has her own room, a queen-sized bed and a wall filled with horse posters. She used to have Justin Bieber posters, but says she's over him.

"Maybe I'll get a Linkin Park one," she said.

She likes their song Somewhere I Belong. She would listen to it in foster care, and it would remind her of what she'd been through.

In the lobby of the sixth floor, she sang:

I wanna heal. I wanna feel like I'm close to something real.

I wanna find something I've wanted all along:

Somewhere I belong.

.on the web

More information

To learn more about adoption and fostering, visit hillsboroughkids.org, heartgallerykids.org and heartgallerytampabay.org.

Tampa family officially unites on National Adoption Day 11/18/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 21, 2011 5:12pm]

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