National Adoption Day is a Court Date Brimming with Joy

By Tom McKenize

Published in the Fort Worth Star Telegram on 12-5-10

Christmas joy came early this year for 88 children in Tarrant County. Bringing happiness to children needing families, but it also took community volunteers to legally formalize those relationships.

On National Adoption Day, Nov. 18, Tarrant County Family Courts were open for business solely to cement the connections between children and their foster families. More than 25,000 children have been served nationwide on National Adoption Day since 2000. As a practicing attorney in Tarrant County, I have had the honor and privilege of participating in this remarkable event every year, along with many other volunteers.

My client this year was a single mother who served as a foster parent for a young girl. This child was removed from a family heavily involved in drugs. Child Protective Services workers tried hard to rehabilitate the girl’s family, but efforts were unsuccessful and the court terminated her parents’ rights. For a single mother, there are few resources to assist in the adoption process. But through local adoption day, the mother and child received pro bono help through the legal process.

The new “daughter” charmed the Associate Judge Diane Haddock and all the 20 or so family and friends in attendance by climbing into the judge’s lap and dictating into the telephone just what she wanted for Christmas. Her self-confidence and lack of fear demonstrated the care and nurturing she received once she came into the foster home. Previously, her future was unsecured, tentative, lacking in structure and marked by the uncertainty of where she would sleep from night to night or even if she would eat.

Many attorneys, families, judges, court staff and CPS workers participate in this annual celebration. This year, 88 children were adopted by 54 families in Tarrant County. In Dallas, approximately 50 children were adopted. The number served in Tarrant County reflects the intense effort supported by state District Judge Jean Boyd, who handles juvenile cases, and the other family court judges, along with support from the local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program, staff from Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and businesses and individuals from our community.

National Adoption Day provides opportunities for these families with limited resources to make these children’s dream of a caring and nurturing family come true. Efforts to secure the long-awaited legal seal actually start a year before the event. Action for the next year starts as soon as one National Adoption Day is over.

Volunteer attorneys take the cases to process them through the courts. Caseworkers volunteer to assist, and judges volunteer their time to hear the cases and grant the adoptions for these children.

Texas Wesleyan School of Law recruits student volunteers to supplement local attorneys’ work in preparing the necessary documents and dealing with families that are going to adopt. Kubes Jewelers contributes commemorative jewelry for each child, while other businesses donate roses for parents and teddy bears for all children who attend.

On the big day, courtrooms are overflowing with stuffed animals and toys, with balloons decorating judges benches. The festivities and excitement permeate the stoic walls and halls of the courthouse. Children laugh, play, love their parents and interact freely with the judges hearing their cases.

Amidst the stress and pressure endured by many attorneys who practice law in this county, those of us who have joined in the effort to finalize adoptions of children in foster care have found a rewarding and uplifting experience by not just doing the legal work needed, but by looking into the hearts and souls of those families who have made unconditional commitments to children in need. I believe that as attorneys it the best thing we do and by far the most rewarding.

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