CRESTVIEW — Little Lydia Williamson is too young to write Santa Claus a wish list, but the man at the North Pole must have already known exactly what she wanted.
The 21-month-old received that gift Wednesday after Elizabeth and Westley Williamson headed to the Okaloosa County Courthouse Annex Extension to make Lydia a permanent part of their family.
"It was a wonderful Christmas gift to her this year," Elizabeth said. "We were able to do on paper what has been done already in our hearts. It was very happy and exciting for everyone."
Lydia isn't the first child to call Elizabeth and Westley "mom and dad." In addition to the couple's three biological children — Jackson, 13, George, 9, and Phoebe, 7 —, they have also adopted two other children — 3-year-old Ellie and 2-year-old Elijah.
"Ellie and Elijah are only 7 months apart," Elizabeth said. "I call them my little twins. We later found out that Ellie had a biological sister and we were asked if we would be willing to take her as a foster placement. That's who we adopted yesterday."
Elizabeth said she and her husband separately desired to adopt children since they were young. In 2013, their desires started to become a reality when they became foster parents.
The Williamsons fostered 13 children and adopted their first, Ellie, in 2015.
"We started the classes required with just the intent to adopt," Elizabeth said. "But, when we heard about the dire need for foster families in our area (Okaloosa County), we decided to foster. It's an incredibly hard thing, but very rewarding."
However, Elizabeth said their family still isn't complete. In early 2018, the Williamsons will adopt yet another son — 6-year-old John — who is currently living with them as a foster child. All the couple's adopted children have come from Northwest Florida.
"Adoption day is already a bittersweet day for us," Elizabeth said. "When you do an adoption, a family has broken apart so that ours can come together and be made whole. When we started our adoption journey we wanted to adopt one child, and now we're at four."
On Christmas morning, seven sets of little feet will rush to the presents under the Williamsons' Christmas tree where Santa Claus, of course, delivered toys, too.
Santa is bringing Jackson an iPhone 8, George a Nintendo Switch, Phoebe an American Girl horse and trailer, John a power wheels car, Ellie a Disney's Frozen castle, Elijah a wooden train set and a swing set for Lydia.
Elizabeth said for those who cannot foster children but still want to help, they should contact local foster families or organizations and ask what they can do to provide support.
"We know that everyone longs to be in a family," Elizabeth said. "Children want to know that someone loves them, that someone will invest in their lives and accept them for who they are. By adopting or fostering, you're changing their story. Family means forever and family means love."