ALPENA - Alpena County celebrated National Adoption Day on Tuesday with the adoption of 10 children, the most ever for the county on a single day.
Eight children from Alpena County were adopted by foster parents, grandparents and other relatives in Judge Thomas LaCross' family court, and two more in Judge Michael Mack's circuit court. It was the culmination of a process that can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, and a considerable peak in local adoption cases; the Department of Human Services handled nine of the 10 adoptions, and had only done 15 over the past year before Tuesday. LaCross said adoptive parents can and often do choose to waive their right to a private adoption and opt instead for a public hearing, which they tend to schedule on Adoption Day.
"I think they choose to have a hearing for several reasons," he said. "Certainly to share with the people that are involved in the adoption, and then to share with the public ... the fact that adoption is a good thing. They want to make a statement, and I think that's good, that they've chosen that."
News Photo by Andrew Westrope
Judge Thomas LaCross holds four-month-old Nola, by his estimation the youngest child he has ever approved for adoption, having just signed off on her placement with Kevin and Staci Brown of Gaylord and their daughter, Delayni, in Alpena Family Court on Tuesday. LaCross signed off on eight of 10 adoptions that took place in Alpena for National Adoption Day on Tuesday.
DHS Director John Keller said the goal of removing children from their homes for safety reasons is to place them with a relative or licensed foster care until the family is able to resolve their drug or alcohol abuse or other dangerous circumstances, but when the family is unable to do so, DHS petitions the court to permanently terminate the biological parents' rights. For Keller, Adoption Day is a heartening change of pace in a line of work that mediates severe familial conflict, a day when children are delivered from harm to home.
"We see a lot of cruelty towards children, but this day - and I try to attend adoptions hearings - this day means more to me I think than any other day of the year because it's a celebration," he said. "It's hope, and we get kids that are in permanent, loving families, so it's just an absolutely wonderful day ... to see the positive."
The courtrooms reflected this, as both judges' pronouncements were met with applause, balloons and flash photography. Following Child and Family Services of Northeast Michigan's receiving a national "Angel in Adoption" award in September from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, it was a day of vindication for families and professionals who had worked for the best interests of the children.
Moments before LaCross approved Kevin and Staci Brown's commitment to raise four-month-old Nola as their own, they described their quick adoption experience as a "whirlwind."
"I feel just blessed to have had this opportunity," Staci said. "We were just excited and thrilled, and she's just been a wonderful addition. Almost every day we can't believe that she's really part of our family."
Nola's new sister, nine-year-old Delayni, summed it up in a single word - "awesome" - echoed by her father.
"Words can't say how much joy she's brought to our lives," he said.
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.