Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Indiana Courts Spotlight National Adoption Day

December 20, 2012 by Sarah Kidwell

Forty-two children went to bed with “forever families” in Indiana on the evening of Friday, November 16, 2012, National Adoption Day. Henry County Circuit Court Judge Mary G. Willis, Allen County Superior Court Judge Charles F. Pratt, and Starke County Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall presided over their final adoption hearings. These judges celebrated this special day by participating in an Indiana Supreme Court order designed to increase public awareness of the value of adoption proceedings.

Henry County Judge Mary G. Willis poses for a picture with one of the families that adopted a child on National Adoption Day. The child, who also had a name change, celebrated with a balloon in the courtroom.

See more photos from the National Adoption Day event on Flickr

The Indiana Supreme Court issued an historic, first-time order to authorize video and audio coverage of uncontested adoptions in these three courts for National Adoption Day. The authorizing order was limited to these counties though many other events and adoption proceedings occurred across the state. Print, television and radio media were present to document these life-changing moments.

The New Castle Courier Times published a front page feature story about the eight adoptions that took place in the Henry Circuit Court. A Fort Wayne television station, newspaper, and radio station covered the thirty adoptions in Allen Superior Court. Multiple television stations and two newspapers in Knox reported on the four adoptions in Starke Circuit Court.

Judge Hall noted that it was the first time in 115 years that cameras were allowed in the Starke Circuit Court. Judge Hall said: “In this courtroom there have been thousands of cases heard. Many times they deal with heartbreak. There’s nothing that a judge would prefer to do more than an adoption. It’s one of the few times we ever get to see people in a courtroom who are generally happy to be here and enjoy the outcome.”

Judge Pratt has participated in National Adoption Day for six years, but this was the first year for media coverage. He noted: “These kids are being blessed with a new opportunity, a new life. We’re giving them a forever family.”

Family members, CASAs, and case workers were also allowed to document the hearings. “To allow photographs, video and audio to be taken during the adoption proceedings calls attention to the number of foster children and honors the families who have chosen to adopt foster children into their homes,” said Judge Willis.

Most of the celebrations were collaborations with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the Department of Child Services (DCS), and Indiana’s Heart Gallery, which is a traveling photographic and audio exhibit the Indiana DCS created in 2007 to assist with finding forever families for children in foster care.

National Adoption Day was started in 2000 with just nine jurisdictions participating and now has about 400 events in all fifty states. According to nationaladoptionday.org, nearly 40,000 children have been adopted from foster care on National Adoption Day during the last 12 years.