It was an emotional day in the Starke Circuit Court yesterday as Judge Kim Hall finalized four adoptions in an historical moment before the public and the media. For the first time in the history of the Starke County Courthouse, Chief Justice Brent Dickson signed a rare order authorizing the adoption proceedings to not only be open to the public, but also to be televised and recorded by the media. Only three counties in Indiana were given this order.
In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month and the increasing need for adoptive families, the four adoption hearings were held before a packed courtroom with several guest speakers, including Rhonda Adcock, the director of Starke County CASA, who spoke about how important adoption is.
Before holding the hearings, Judge Hall said there is no case more pleasant, rewarding, and filled with tears of joy than adoption hearings.
Susanne Lange of the Bella Vita Pregnancy Resource Center in Knox also spoke before the hearing about the love and care it requires to make an adoption plan. She said parents who feel unable to provide security, stability, and care for a child may choose to put their child up for adoption in the child’s best interest. There are more than 153 million orphans in the world, and, more than ever, adoption is necessary. Foster children have a one in three chance of not being adopted before they age out of the system.
The Earnests were one family who sought to legally adopt their grandson. The family filed their petition to adopt in March, and with no contest, Judge Hall granted their request. Richard Earnest, the boy’s grandfather and now adoptive father, said that now, they feel like a family.
“We had custody of him, but the adoption is final – he’s secure, he knows he has a safe place to stay. It was good for us to finally get him adopted and now we’re just a family,” said Earnest.
Earnest said that despite caring for the child for several years, it’s a blessing that they have now officially adopted him.
“He’s been with us for four years and we’ve talked to him through the whole process and he realizes that we’re not only grandparents, but we’re parents, and he understands that and we have a good relationship. It’s a blessing,” Earnest said.
Besides the adoption hearings, several organizations had booths set up on the third floor of the courthouse to allow visitors to learn more about the adoption process. The Indiana Heart Gallery was one of those organizations and featured a display that shwoed all of the children who need adoptive families. The Indiana Department of Child Services uses the Heart Gallery to help raise awareness about children in foster care in need of a forever home. There are approximately 1,100 foster kids in Indiana currently eligible for adoption and while many will be adopted by a relative or foster parent, DCS is actively seeking adoptive families for a number of them.