Lance Cpl. Christopher Mohedano-Hernandez, center, is hugged by family members after participating in an adoption ceremony Tuesday in Mineola, N.Y. The Marine has been formally adopted by his stepfather in what experts call a growing trend of adult adoptions. (Seth Wenig / AP)
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MINEOLA, N.Y. — Lance Cpl. Christopher Mohedano-Hernandez found special significance in being formally adopted during a Christmas Eve ceremony held in a suburban New York courtroom.
The deeply religious 19-year-old Roman Catholic drew parallels Tuesday from his adoption by a man who married his mother when Mohedano-Hernandez was a young boy and the Biblical story of Joseph and Jesus.
"They weren't related by blood, but to Joseph, he was his son," Mohedano-Hernandez said. "I feel the same way about my father; he knows that I'm his son and I feel the same exact way. Blood relation or not, I am his son."
The adoption ceremony at Nassau County Surrogate's Court on Long Island also included two other families adopting young babies, but Judge Edward McCarty, a retired U.S. Army colonel who served in Iraq and Kuwait, paid special attention to the Marine and his family.
Mohedano-Hernandez is the latest in what experts call a growing trend of adult adoptions; McCarty estimates he has performed at least 40 adult adoptions in recent years.
The adoptees are usually children brought into subsequent marriages of birth parents and their new spouses, or the children of foster parents who decide when they turn 18 that they want to have the people who reared them formally declared as their parents by a court, said Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the Washington-based National Council For Adoption.
He said because the cases involve adults, state adoption and child welfare agencies do not keep accurate statistics, but he confirmed there have been reports of increases in recent years.
"There is something about having that legal process to verify what happened in your heart," Johnson said.
Mohedano-Hernandez, who is stationed at a Marine base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., arrived home on leave on Monday night. He said he dreams of going to officer training, becoming a physician and making a career out of the military.
"Chris was always a loyal kid and always had high expectations," said Luis Mohedano, seated in the front row of the courtroom with his wife, Rosa and daughter Kate. "I'm very happy that this day has finally come."