|Pittsfield Court Performs Unique Double-Adoption|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
11:40AM / Friday, May 27, 2011
|The Greenmans adopted 16-year-old Joseph and he in turn adopted his new dog Panela Bear.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Growing up in group homes, Joseph Greenman always dreamed of the day he'd have a real family and Thursday, he got an even bigger one than he imagined.
Joseph Greenman showed off Panela Bear's tricks — sitting, playing dead and giving paw — in the courtroom Thursday.
Berkshire Juvenile Court officiated a unique double-adoption when the 16-year-old formally adopted his new dog Panela Bear in the same proceeding during which he was adopted by Steve and Diane Greenman.
"I became a foster parent because I had to stop working and I wanted to do something to make a difference," Steve Greenman said. "But I'm not sure who made the biggest difference, me or Joe. I became a better man because of Joe."
The Greenmans were Joe's foster family for the last four years after he was removed from a group home in Springfield. They got Panela for him just a year ago.
The family set goals for Joseph to achieve and rewarded him for reaching them with the Labrador. Concurrently, the family was working toward formally adopting Joe and, for a touch of heartwarming, the court arranged the proceeding to include a formal adoption of Panela Bear by Joe — bringing the whole family together.
"We went to get her in Weare, N.H. It was a long trip," said the teen. "I earned her."
Since then, Joe's has been taking care of the dog and teaching her tricks - tricks Panela was willing to show off in the courtroom. With the Labrador sitting in a chair next to him, Joe gave the dog a big hug during the proceedings and got to announce that she was officially his. The adoption was celebrated by his new family, social workers, Panela's former owner, officials with Big Brothers Big Sisters and officials with Berkshire Children and Families who have gotten to know him.
"I think it is fabulous that Joe found what he was looking for — a family," Amy Roccabruna, a social worker assigned to Joe. "Joe will go far now that he's found permanency."
The Greenmans are the only family Joe has known because he entered the group home at age 3. When he grew out of the Springfield group home at age 12, it coincided with the Greenmans looking to be foster parents after Steve Greenman suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that ended his law enforcement career.
Joe wanted to live out in the country and have a father and with the Greenmans, he got just that.
"Basically he had no family," Tom Borden, director of permanency programs at Berkshire Children and Families, said. "It was just remarkable the way they related to each other."
The Greenmans had a large crowd of family, family service officials and friends celebrating the union of the family.
Since the adoption Joe has engaged in woodworking and cooks dinner for the family once a week. On Wednesday, he became a junior firefighter with the Ashfield Fire Department.
He was also recently reunited with his biological sister, who lost touch with him when he moved to Ashfield. His sister also attended the adoption proceeding.
Steve Greenman said Joe Greenman came close to adoption a few times before but it always fell through.
"He wanted to belong so bad that he could taste it," Greenman said, "I'm a little nervous because I now have a teenager — that is mine. But Joe's a great kid."