Wiggling with excitement, siblings Josiah and Naomi took over the bench in the 166th District Court on Thursday afternoon for a festive celebration featuring songs and cheers.
Sharing the bench with Judge Laura Salinas, the children joined their brother Matthew and adoptive parents to sign court documents, officially becoming a part of a brand new forever family.
Adoptive mom LaKenya and her husband Allen have been caring for the children as foster parents but made the commitment to share their name, their hearts, and their lives with kids whose history shocked Bexar County.
"I can't tell you how excited and full of happiness I am for this family and to see these children where they are today,” said Judge Salinas, whose pen stroke created the new family.
"This is an amazing family. It's an amazing miracle and a privilege to be around them,” said Tonya Stuart, one of many family friends who attended the adoption ceremony. "They are faith-filled. They walk by faith and not by sight. The whole family is a blessing for the community."
Jan Brown is a Child Advocates of San Antonio volunteer who helped the children navigate the legal system. She called the adoption a day of triumph, celebration, and joy.
"This was a very good outcome for some children that went through a very hard time. This family deserves everything, all the good that could ever happen," Brown said.
Two years ago, Bexar County deputies responded to a complaint about a child that had been screaming for hours and found Josiah and Naomi in horrific conditions on the 8100 block of Chipping in the Camelot II subdivision on the northeast side.
Court testimony indicated that Naomi's hands were bound with a dog leash and she had been left tied to an exterior door of the home for hours or days, unable to sit down.
Prosecutors said that when ants attacked the tiny girl and she started to scream relentlessly, neighbors called the Bexar County Sheriff's Office to complain.
Arriving deputies told a jury that after they used a knife to free Naomi from her restraints in a dark, wet, feces-filled yard, their flashlights swept across the barren landscape and they found Josiah on the ground.
One deputy said that he was afraid Josiah was dead because he wasn't moving.
Deputies said that the boy had a length of chain affixed to his ankle and he was tethered to a dog restraint device in the ground.
Deputies described both children as filthy and afraid.
Medical personnel who treated them at the hospital said that the children had bruises, scratches, bites, and scars on virtually every square inch of their bodies.
Trial testimony showed that the children were home alone, but two adults eventually returned and were arrested to face charges.
A woman, Porucha Phillips, took a plea and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Her husband, Deandre Dorch, went to trial and was found guilty. Last month, he received a sentence of 65 years.
Neither adult was related to the children, according to testimony. Dorch told investigators that the two children had been left behind when their mother, Cheryl Reed, who left for California. Reed remains jailed, awaiting trial.