At 19, Monyay has just enjoyed her first official hug from her new mom. The embrace took place at a youth care center in Bradenton.
With the signing of a legal document formalizing adult adoption, Monyay also has a new surname – Paskalides.
The teenager, who was placed in a foster home at age 11, was adopted by her caregiver and mentor, Leah Paskalides.
“I am so happy, so honored, to sign this official document. With my signature, it’s official, ”Judge Teri Dees told Tuesday’s ceremony at the Child Safety Coalition, which shared its video footage via Zoom.
“Being said ‘no’ so many times, hearing that ‘yes’ and hearing them say it like my mother is, it’s something like, oh my God, it’s for real,” Monyay told reporters at the Fox13 from Tampa Bay.
Prior to accepting the title of Mom, Leah Paskalides worked as a Monyay advocate and mentor with the Child Safety Coalition.
Due to the demands of her job, Paskalides, deputy director of adoptions at Safe Children’s, had to wait to adopt Monyay until she got old from the foster care program. She was originally Monyay’s case manager and then his mentor as the bond developed between the two, according to the center.
“Throughout Monyay’s trip just in case, they stayed in touch and shared a close connection,” Safe Children posted on Facebook. “We are so happy for them.”
“She was always a child who didn’t deserve to live her life without a family’s support system,” Paskalides told Fox13.
As an adult, Monyay was able to accept adult adoption. And now the new mother and daughter are hoping to raise awareness that teens need permanent housing too, so they’ve agreed to share their story.
“It was important to me that she knew she was wanted by someone, that someone loved her,” Paskalides told reporters. “I could say it as many times as I want, but deeds speak louder than words.”
“It’s never too late because I’m an adult, but I’m still being adopted,” Monyay Paskalides said. “Just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”
Adult adoption is legal in Florida and requires the consent of both the adoptive parent and the adopted adult and a petition in court, according to Florida’s Children First. Birth parents do not have to consent to the adoption of an adult.