By Jo Mathis
It was an emotion-packed day Nov. 16 at the Jackson County Courthouse as 10 families made it legal on Michigan Adoption Day.
"It's a boy!" shouted Laurence Day after the adoption of two-year-old Jackson.
It was sometimes hard to tell who was the happiest in the courtroom: the new parent, the adoptee, the extended family, or the judges.
After one of the hearings, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Steven Markman told The Legal News that he and his colleagues are honored to participate in adoptions across the state on Adoption Day.
"On the Supreme Court, we basically see lawyers every day, and it's really inspiring on Adoption Day to go out into the counties and see people who are blessed with the opportunity to adopt a child and give that child the opportunity to make the most of himself or herself," said Markman. "The fact that it's right before Thanksgiving is also very moving. We hope this is the first of many great Thanksgivings these children have."
At each of the 10 hearings, the family introduced friends and relatives who had come to support them. One family asked their minister to lead the room in prayer. Others included readings, or invited extended family to say a few words.
A post-hearing reception was held for each family, complete with clowns, food, face painting, and a photographer to capture it all.
Two-year-old Jackson Day had been placed in four foster homes within his extended family for the first 11 months of his life.
"We found out that he needed a placement because his great grandma was having a hard time taking care of him, and we were recently married, and she asked, `Can you guys take him?'" recalled Monica Day, who had to attend a weekly court hearing from then on. "It's been a lot of work trying to make the best situation for him. Jackson had to grow up pretty fast, and he kind of gets it. It seems he's pretty aware. And he's very happy!"
"Being a parent is life-changing. You're never the same. Through a baby's eyes, you see the world anew. It's truly been miraculous for me, being a mom."
Troy Wrozek of Spring Arbor legally adopted his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Alexis, while his wife, Kim, wiped away tears.
"I've been her dad for nine of her 12 years, so it was about time," he said. "It's a very special day. Something I've been looking forward to for a long time."
"Troy's been her dad all these years," said Kim Wrozek. "Now it's official."
"I'm just glad," said Alexis. "It'll feel more complete."
At any given time, Michigan has more than 19,000 children in foster care, explained Terralyn Brown, Jackson County's adoption coordinator. The majority are victims of abuse and neglect, she said, noting that while some will eventually return to their homes or be placed with relatives, thousands more are still in need of permanent homes.
Although November is National Adoption Month, and many are in fact held this month, adoptions are held throughout the year.
Across the country, there are 107,000 children available for adoption. About 1,000 people-- mostly children--were adopted on Michigan Adoption Day across the state.
Ruth and Mike Gundy of Spring Arbor welcomed Philip into their home as a foster child when he was just three days old. Parental rights were terminated five months ago, and adoption proceedings began at that time. He is now 18 months old.
The couple has another foster child, David, and his adoption will be final in February.
With tears in her eyes, Gundy said she was feeling very emotional.
"It's been a long road," she said, holding Philip, who was all dressed up in a suit and shiny shoes. "There were ups and downs whether we'd be able to keep him."
The best part, she said, is being an official family unit.
"It's about time," said Mike. "It's been a long process. We've had him for 18 months, and it's been long and frustrating at times - but well worth it. He needed us and we needed him."
Brown said one of the goals of Adoption Day is to get the word out that people don't have to be perfect to adopt children.
"None of us is perfect, and I think that scares people a little bit," she said. "We need more families out there for foster care, and for that adoption if they're not going to be reunited with the family."
A Jackson couple named Stacy and Brent (who prefer not to use their last name for privacy issues) were happy to welcome their fourth child - the second via adoption - into the family. Piper, 20 months, joins brothers Reese, 12, and Rhett, 10, and sister, Ehlena, 8, who was adopted in India.
The best part about a new little sister?
"I can chase her!" said Ehlena, who admits she doesn't catch her.
"We fell in love with her the moment she came into our home, although at the time we didn't know what the outcome would be," said Stacy. "We feel very blessed to have her as a permanent part of our family. We are just as blessed as she is."
Adoption Day is jointly sponsored by the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Department of Human Resources (DHS).
Jackson County Circuit Judge Richard N. LaFlamme said that presiding over an adoption is one of the special fun things he gets to do as a family court judge.
"So much of what happens in a courtroom isn't so pleasant for many of the things involved," he said. "Adoption Day is in many cases a happy ending, and it's also a happy beginning."
Published: Thu, Nov 22, 2012