Kent County Adoption Day



Court cements  bonds, offers up some fun, causes tears of joy

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

“In this court we do a lot of not-very-fun things,” said 17th Circuit Court Family Division Judge Kathleen Feeney on Kent County Adoption Day last Thursday. “This is the most fun that we ever get to have.”

She was addressing her remarks to young Breeana, her new adoptive mother (who is also her birth grandmother), several other extended family members, adoption workers from Catholic Charities and the Michigan Department of Human Services, and Jean Kruger, Breeana’s Court Appointed Special Advocate.

Breeana’s hearing was Judge Feeney’s first of the day, and the tears and relief and gratitude and excitement were repeated every half hour until 11 a.m. in her courtroom and the courtrooms of Presiding Judge of the Family Division Patricia D. Gardner, Judge G. Patrick Hillary, Judge George Jay Quist and Judge Daniel V. Zemaitis.

Comments Sandra Recker, Adoption Specialist/Referee, on Breeana’s adoption, “Great example of good services and working with families to keep children with relatives when possible.”

For her part, Breeana seemed only slightly overwhelmed and very, very happy.

“Breeana is exactly where she should be,” said Jean Kruger, who has been working on this case for three years.

Kruger is part of the CASA program, profiled in the 11-23-12 Grand Rapids Legal News. Each Court Appointed Special Advocate is assigned to a child and stays with the child throughout the child’s time in court, to provide continuity in an often-challenging situation. Kruger confessed to being both very happy for Breeana and a little sad for herself, because she will miss seeing the bright seven-year-old as frequently as she has in the past.

Judge Feeney ended the session by reading a touching poem by Carol Lynn Pearson,  a tradition based on yearly readings by former Presiding Judge John Steketee. It reads, in part, “We did not plant you, True. But when the season is done/... We will hold you high. A shining sheaf above the thousand seeds grown wild. Not by our planting, But by heaven. Our harvest. Our child.”

She then invited Breeana herself to pound the final gavel.

Dec. 13 was the 16th annual Kent County Adoption Day, which celebrates a positive resolution to the problems faced by wards of the court. On that day, 21 families adopted a total of 25 children.

The Christmas theme apparent courtwide indeed “makes the season bright” for these families. After their time in court, all were invited to see Santa downstairs.

As incarnated by former probation officer Ken Van Woerkom, Santa welcomed children and had his elf Emily usher them in to a small room on the ninth floor, where an official photographer would take their photos. In the larger room outside Santa’s quarters, there was a festive party with holiday refreshments. The Hug-A-Bear organization provided squeezable teddy bears for each adopted child, and the Adoptive Family Support Network gave out supportive informational materials.

There has been a Michigan Adoption Day held across the state on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving for the last nine years, but Kent County has chosen to go with its own, older tradition.

Thirty-three counties participated in the Nov. 20 Michigan Adoption Day, resulting in over 100 adoptions. Like Kent County, those adoptions usually include a celebration party, and some also feature informational speakers.

In 2012, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., Judge Michael Anderegg from Marquette and Judge Faye Harrison from Saginaw finalized adoptions in the Supreme Court courtroom at the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing.