The ultimate trick-or-treat treasure: 15 children claim their new homes just before Halloween at adoption event

It was a family celebration on the eve of Halloween at the Duval County Courthouse as it was transformed into a trick-or-treat treasure trove.

Fifteen local children were adopted on Monday and claimed their permanent homes just in time for Halloween.

“Unfortunately, a lot of sad things happen at the courthouse, and often there’s a lot of conflict,” Judge Michael Kalil said. “But today’s one of those days where the courthouse can celebrate one of those positive things that happens here.”

Dependency court Judges Kalil and Cooper presided over the 5th annual Home for Halloween adoption finalization event hosted by Family Support Services, whose president and CEO adopted two of her five children.

“Just the symbolism of these events, that really bring that final closure and make that child feel like they truly are secure, and the past is past and the future is bright,” Jenn Petion said.

Ileana’s grandfather Jesse Diaz officially adopted her and her two siblings after fighting for custody for years and retiring from his law enforcement career.

“I have a second chance at being a better parent,” Diaz said. “Hopefully, I can instill in them to grow up to be respectful and kind and learn to work with others and just be nice.”

After the ceremony, the families were treated to a trick-or-treat celebration outside the courtroom complete with plenty of candy, games and balloon animals.

Over the past 20 years, Family Support Services has helped more than 6,000 children in the First Coast foster care system be adopted.

For more information about how to foster or adopt a child in care, go to

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