To celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month, the Indiana Department of Child Services, the Porter County Juvenile Court, and the Porter County CASA program (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) joined forces to host Adoption Day on Tuesday.
The courtroom opened its doors to 20 foster children anticipating adoption and their adoptive families, plus additional family and friends. In addition to the excitement of gaining an enduring family, the children received presents, treats, and photos commemorating the special occasion.
Adoption days are advocated for by the Indiana Supreme Court; each county in the state is allowed to select their designated adoption days in order to spread awareness of the need for foster and adoptive families.
This marks the first ever Adoption Day in Porter County, and Gwenn Rinkenberger, Juvenile Magistrate for Porter Circuit Court, said it won’t be the last.
“Just to see the looks on the kids’ faces, it’s really exciting,” Rinkenberger said. “They get to dress up, get gifts, and make a change in their lives, they get to have some permanency: permanent homes, parents, loved ones.”
The normally closed adoption proceedings were treated with a festive flourish; Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” made for a fitting theme to the day. The children and their families were invited to make fingerprint family trees and snack on Seussical snacks. To contribute to the merriment, Strack & Van Til donated 600 cupcakes for the event.
“We are excited to celebrate this very happy, positive event happening in the lives of these children for whom we've been advocating,” said Sarah Fink, CASA Program Director. “You just have to open the paper to know it’s hard to find good news. We hear a lot about what’s happening with families struggling, especially with the opioid crisis that we’ve been hit hard by in Porter County. This is the other side of it: these kids are going to be in good places now, they’re going to be in forever homes.”
Fink said that some of the children in attendance had been with their foster families for nearly their whole lives.
“I see one family here that we started working with about two years ago. The minute [the children] went to this foster home, you could see that the foster parents were so delighted to have them, and the kids bonded with them so quickly,” Fink said. “They’re here today, and they’re thriving and excited and it’s just really heart-warming to see.”
After the official petition for adoption (and a name change, if requested) was granted, Rinkenberger invited each newly adopted child to come strike the gavel, stamp their documents, and press a button that declared, “That was easy!” She then sent them off to their families’ waiting arms with a gift and warm wishes. While the day was certainly an unforgettable one, Rinkenberger wants the community to know that this work is ongoing.
“We do what’s in the best interest of the children in this county always,” she said. “It’s quite a procedure to get to this adoption day, it can take two years, maybe three years to go through the process to get here. We’re trying to do what’s best for all these kids every day.”
Fink said that there is still a desperate need for foster families in Porter County. She hopes that the event will spark more serious interest in individuals who are considering becoming foster families.
“There is a real need for foster families in this area,” Fink emphasized. “We have kids [from the area] that are placed outside of Porter County because of there aren’t enough foster families here."
if you are interested in fostering, you can go to the Department of Child Services website, or investigate other foster agencies in the area, such as The Villages or KidsPeace.
Judging by the emotional, happy families and children flooding the courtroom, Porter County’s first ever Adoption Day kindled a warm tradition for the community.
For more information on the Porter County CASA Program, visit their website.