Wearing their Sunday best, Daniel and Annie McKizzie sit at a glossy wooden table in a Fourth Judicial District courtroom. Small teddy bears wearing red shirts decorate every table and shelf in the room.
The McKizzies are about to go through a ceremony that they've been through several times -- but each time, it's just as emotional an experience.
"This is the matter of the petition of Daniel and Anne McKizzie to adopt Candice and Camron," announces Judge Kerry Meyer.
The couple's eyes are on two children sitting at an adjacent table. Candice, 16, wears an earnest and happy expression. Her brother, Camron, 11, could pass for eight. He sits with a serious face, hands folded.
Meyer leads them through the process of becoming a family. She starts with Annie McKizzie, a stay-at-home mom who likes to call herself a domestic engineer.
"You're establishing a mother-child relationship each of them that will last their entire lives, correct?" Meyer asks Annie McKizzie.
"Yes," she replies.
Meyer turns to Daniel McKizzie, a Minneapolis pastor who's also a mechanical designer for Target.
"Is it your desire to establish or continue a father-son relationship with Camron?" the judge asks.
"Most definitely," Daniel McKizzie replies.
"And to establish a father-daughter relationship or to continue that with Candice?" Meyer asks.
"Most definitely," he says again.
Daniel and Annie McKizzie have four birth children, and they've adopted three more. Candice and Camron will be the couple's eighth and ninth children. They confirm to the judge that they want to be adopted by the McKizzie family.
"Congratulations, you're legally a family," Meyer announces.
The McKizzie family completed their adoption of Candice and Camron during National Adoption Awareness Month, which agencies throughout Minnesota are celebrating with events. This past weekend, 20 children were legally united with parents at the Hennepin County courtrooms in downtown Minneapolis.
The happy ending for the newly-enlarged McKizzie family relieves Meyer, who's handled Candice and Camron's cases for years. She scrutinized the background of the adoptive parents carefully, and is very happy with this match.
"I love adoptions because they're really the happy ending to what has been usually a long and hard road," she says. "This is their new forever family because they don't have their birth family anymore. So it's a good extra day to come to work."
In a down economy, though, it's hard to ignore the immense cost of raising a child.
Deborah Huskins, an area director with the Department of Human Services and Public Health in Hennepin County, says adoption workers talk with potential parents about the adoption subsidies and tax breaks that might help with financial challenges that lie ahead.
"As much as love trumps everything, and should, the financial wherewithal to raise a child is a big undertaking," Huskins says. "And it's important that people go into that with their eyes wide open."
The McKizzies thought about money. But Daniel McKizzie says it wasn't a factor.
"It's not an issue of having enough," McKizzie says. "It's like we make do with what we have. Money's never an issue. If I have, you have, and you provide for one another. You just pull together."
Before Candice and Camron met the McKizzies, they were living in a foster home they didn't like. Candice always feared being separated from Camron. Daniel McKizzie cries as Candice describes how Camron has changed since the McKizzies decided to adopt them.
"He don't act up in school anymore," Candice says. "He doesn't kick or fight anymore like he used to all the time."
Camron says he understands now what families are. They sing church songs everyday. They eat together. On Sundays, fathers and sons watch football games together.
Camron also knows that what happened was extraordinary. He describes the adoption as a "real family that takes care of you. And they be by your side. They keep you safe. They love us no matter what we do."
A reporter asks him if he ever thought he would have that.
"No," he replies.
Daniel McKizzie is listening, and he gives his new son a long hug. Camron puts his hand in Daniel's, and as the McKizzies move away to get some cake, they look like a family.