Yesterday began as just a normal fall day in Fargo, North Dakota. It was however to be a special day.
I was driving through a light snow fall to the Cass County Courthouse to attend a National Adoption Day ceremony. I had not attended one before and thus had no clue what to expect.
The outside walkway to the entrance had colorful large lollipops on each side. A person’s first name was on each. Later I was to learn that each represented a North Dakota eligible for adoption but still awaiting a family.
Inside the courthouse a crowd was gathering. For no particular reason I chose a courtroom to enter. I was to find out I made the right choice.
Today six children from our county were to have their adoptions finalized. The courtroom I chose to sit in was to be where one family with three children already were about to add four more children to their family. The courtroom was full to capacity with soon to be grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and numerous friends.
The clerk called the courtroom to order as the judge entered. The lawyer then had the clerk swear in Ronald & Billie Jo (adoptive parents) and each took the stand to affirm to a series of questions. Jemisyn was then called forth. Jemisyn was the oldest of the four children being adopted by this family and since she was over the age of ten she had to verbally give her consent to be adopted as well as sign a form also stating it.
The lawyer then asked for the judge to approve the adoption. With a signature and a few words he so declared and suddenly four children were a part of a new family. The judge joined the family for numerous photos being taken of this newly enlarged forever family. I made the choice not to take any photographs during this time as I did not want to intrude on this moment of celebration.
A reception followed in the courthouse rotunda followed by a short speaking program. Letters of support were read from both our U.S. Senators, a word from each of the two judges who conducted the adoptions (two adoptions by two families were held in a second courtroom).
The four of the children said a few words oh how they felt about being adopted. The highlight was one of the boys, who appeared to be maybe five, stood in front of the crowd for a minute or so and finally blurted out, “I don’t know what to say!”
The program concluded with Mom (Billie Jo) giving very heartfelt and tearful comments of what the day meant to her and her family.
While the reception was going on I had the opportunity to speak to one of the county social workers about our situation in North Dakota. We have over 1,400 youth in foster care. Over 300 of these children are eligible for adoption; with over of 100 of them just in our county. These are high number considering North Dakota has less than 800,000 people living in the state.
I was also able to share a few brief moments with Ronald (the adoptive father of the four children). I had a much longer conversation with Billie Jo’s father, the new grandfather. He told me more of the family’s story.
Billie Jo & Ronald have one biological child. They became foster parents a number of years ago and have cared for twenty-two youth. This is their second adoption. They adopted two children earlier. Today their family grew from five to nine, including the parents.
The inside program ended and it was time to move outside for a balloon ceremony. Each color balloon released held significance:
White: Love and unity
Green: Remembering the birth families of each youth
Yellow: Remembering former foster families of the youth
Red: Honoring the three sets of adoptive parents
Orange: Thanking extended adoptive families/friends for their support
Blue: Celebrating the lives of the newly adopted children
Each of the newly adopted youth were given a bouquet of these balloons and released them one at a time as words of remembrance, thanksgiving, honor and celebration were offered. The photographs on this page obviously were taken during this time.
Jemisyn, Raziah, Kaisha, Charley, Cale & Elizabeth today have forever families.
The program concluded and I moved on to a local restaurant for a late breakfast. I didn’t know it would end up being the same place Ronald, Billie Jo, their now seven children, extended family and friends would also choose to gather in one of the private dining rooms.
During the course of eating my breakfast Billie Jo unexpectedly came over to my table. She thanked me for being present at the ceremony and also spoke of some of the comments I had shared with her father.
This turned out to be a very special morning for me. I am glad I attended the ceremony. It was also bittersweet. As I sat in the courtroom listening to the finalizing of the adoptions I could only think back to my own childhood. I had lived in foster care my entire youth, experienced sixteen moves during those years; however, I never had the joy of experiencing what these children experienced today.
There will be another National Adoption Day next year (the Saturday before Thanksgiving); it is my hope and prayer that a far larger number of foster youth in our county and state eligible for adoption will be joined together with a new forever family.
This is but one celebration held across the country yesterday. In over 250 courtrooms well over 3,000 foster youth became part of a forever family!
Every child deserves a stable, secure, nurturing and loving family…whether it is a biological or adoptive family!