The last day of court for 2015 was not like the hundreds of other days in the year in York County courtrooms. Tuesday was not a day of guilt or innocence, of disputes and arguing, claims of abuse and neglect and mayhem and bullets and killing – ending with the clink of handcuffs and prison bars.
Court ended for 2015 in York County with joy.
And joy has a new name – Aryka Brooke Yontz.
Eleven-year-old Aryka wanted just one thing for Christmas.
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“I wanted to be adopted.”
Most of Aryka’s life has been one disappointment, one crisis, one broken promise after another. Courts in Ohio already terminated the parental rights of her birth parents. She has lived in several places and with so many people.
And she was getting older, which means her odds of adoption were getting smaller and smaller.
That all was swept away on Tuesday. The promise parents are supposed to make every day for every child was kept.
In a tiny courtroom at the York County office complex in Rock Hill, Family Court Judge David Guyton – himself an adoptive father – proudly told Aryka: “You were chosen.”
All this little girl wanted was to be wanted. And on Tuesday, the people who wanted her told the whole world and made it official that they wanted her forever.
Robin and Phillip Yontz specifically sought an older child to adopt. The Rock Hill couple looked for a child who needed parents and love and all the things most kids get anyway but this one girl never had.
The journey of courts and battles and lawyers and judges and interstate haggling – spearheaded by Rock Hill adoption lawyer Dale Dove – led them to Aryka.
She has been in foster care with the Yontzes since March.
"She’s like the little girl I always dreamed about,” Robin Yontz said as she sat in the witness stand and cried. “Every day with her is wonderful – not perfect, but wonderful.”
Phillip Yontz is a mechanical engineer and retired Navy submariner. He has lived all over the country and dealt with the most secret and important things on earth. He has spent 70-plus days underwater guarding the free world.
On Tuesday, this courageous man of the military sat in court and told Judge Guyton, a former Marine himself: “She’s beautiful and wonderful, and I love her.”
Guyton nodded at the man whose love of wife and country is only eclipsed by his love for a new daughter.
Aryka beamed at the man who wanted more than anything in the world to be her father. She smiled for the whole world to see.
An adoption case worker from the state Department of Social Services and a guardian ad litem – the person appointed by the court to look out for a child’s best interests – each said how Aryka could find no better home than with Robin and Phillip Yontz.
After the judge made it official, everybody clapped and posed for pictures. No more custody battle. No state agencies. No piles of documents. No more fighting.
The family hugged each other four days after Christmas.
“I got a great family,” Aryka said of her Christmas gift. “I got everything, technically, that I need. Look how many people came out to support me.”
Her new grandparents and family friends were there. They all cried and hugged.
“I couldn’t be happier right now,” Aryka said.
When asked why, she simply pointed at her new mother and father.
“I love them, and they love me.”
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065