St. Louis County Courts

November 22, 2017 – St. Louis County Family Court Marks National Adoption Awareness Month with Special Celebration for Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

St. Louis County Family Court Marks National Adoption
Awareness Month with Special Celebration for Families

CLAYTON – Nov. 22, 2017 – Two-year-old Violet may not remember the gray November day when her adoption became final.

But for her boisterous entourage of aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, it was a day they’ll never forget – a celebration complete with balloons, stuffed animals and lollipops at the St. Louis County Family Court.

Violet’s recent adoption was one of more than 25 that were finalized in the St. Louis County Family Court during the first week of November, as part of National Adoption Awareness month. This year marks the 17th year the Court has participated in special adoption events during November to raise awareness of the thousands of children in foster care across the nation who are waiting for permanent, loving families.

In 2016, 274 adoptions were granted in St. Louis County, including stepparent, adult and foreign adoptions. Of those 274, 51 were children adopted by foster parents through the Missouri Children’s Division; 21 children, including some who had been placed with the Children’s Division because of abuse or neglect, were adopted by relatives.

The families come in all colors, ages, shapes and sizes: a couple in midlife adopting a little girl who, like the boy they adopted four years ago, was born addicted to heroin. A couple in their sixties adopting a one-year-old relative, whose drug-abusing parents had neglected her.

But as different as they may appear, they share certain qualities: faith, courage and compassion. In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, here are some of their stories.

A baby of their own

After years of struggling with infertility, Jane and Tom (not their real names) approached Bethany Christian Services to help them adopt an infant.

What kind of baby did they want? A boy or a girl? A newborn or a toddler? “We wanted a living baby…a human baby,” Jane said. “A baby of our own.”

They knew it would take time. But as weeks of waiting turned into months, and months turned into years, they began to lose hope.

“We said ‘yes’ to 70 infants,” Jane said. “We met with two birthparents who chose someone else.”

After so much disappointment, they thought it might be time to take their names off the waiting list, and pursue training to become foster parents.

Then the call came that turned their lives upside-down.

One moment they were just another married couple, young professionals busy with their careers. Twenty-four hours, one car seat and two giant boxes of diapers later, they were parents.

Their baby boy was 12 days old, with a soft crown of curly brown hair, impossibly chubby cheeks and healthy lungs.

Like most new parents, they were thrilled … and terrified.

“We didn’t know what we were doing at first,” Tom said.

But they caught on fast.

Today, their son William is thriving, with two new teeth and a healthy appetite.

He loves to laugh, Tom said. And he’ll eat anything put in front of him, from bananas to baba ganoush.

With the adoption final, they already are eager to begin the process again. “We want him to have siblings,” Jane said.

Brothers? Sisters? How many of each? “As many as God will give us – but at least four,” Jane said. “We’ll see what we can handle.”

Party of Three

A skinny 9-year-old with a spray of freckles across her nose, sits on a hard wooden bench outside a courtroom in St. Louis County Family Court, impatiently swinging her legs.

She is dressed to the nines in a pink lace top, black and white leggings, a black and white jacket and white knee-high boots. Her long red hair is in tangles from the night before, when she dressed as a zombie prom queen for Halloween, with “scary makeup and everything.”

She is the kind of little girl who likes things just so, from her outfits to her Halloween candy, which she stayed up late organizing into tidy piles: Three Musketeers (her favorite); Twix; Milky Way, Reese’s Pieces.

What she does not like is waiting, a fact evident from her expression, which is equal parts bored and crabby. As the morning wears on, she yawns and slumps against her mother, who has been counting down the days until one chapter of their life officially closes and another begins. More than anything, her mother says with a tense half-smile, she is anxious for the adoption to be done.

The girl’s biological father was never part of their lives; “willfully abandoned” is the harsh legal term for this. And so this girl grew up as so many do, in the fiercely defended fortress of a single mother’s love. Perhaps the little girl never knew what she was missing without a father in her life; her mother knew, however. And it hurt.

But life is long.

And today, love has bestowed official fatherhood on a good man who vows to cherish it forever, come what may.

Judge Ellen Dunne, herself an adoptive parent three times over, reads aloud the papers that will legally change the little girl’s last name to her stepfather’s.

With no school today, the family will soon be headed out to celebrate with brunch at a place of the little girl’s choosing. Father, mother, daughter; one family, one name.

“How does it feel?” Judge Dunne asks Dad.

He breaks into a 10,000-watt smile. His face flushes bright pink. Mom smiles too: joy mixed with relief.

“Really good,” Dad says, crumpling his wife and daughter in a bear hug. “I couldn’t imagine my life without either of them.”

Violet

The cheerful entourage outside Courtroom 101 belongs to a will of the wisp in a daffodil-yellow skirt and a flowered headband. She runs down the hallway, pursued by two little girls who squeal when they catch her, then turn around and start the chase again.

Uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents on both sides have come to witness the finalization of Violet’s adoption. Violet’s adoptive mother, who is six months pregnant, has brought a homemade sign to mark this special occasion: “I am a child of God and He has sent me here.”

Unbenown to Violet, her biological mother is across the street in the County jail, where she is serving time on drug charges. Violet’s maternal grandmother will represent her in spirit, at a ceremony presided over by retired St. Louis County Circuit Judge Melvyn W. Wiesman. As her new family promises to care and provide for her, Violet munches a handful of pretzels. Nearby, her maternal grandmother, is smiling through non-stop tears. Dealing with her daughter’s homelessness, drug use and unplanned pregnancy has been a bumpy road, she said.

But today there is much to be thankful for.

“We have a large, close family,” Violet’s grandmother said. “My daughter knew enough that she recognized she couldn’t be the mother she needs to be. Violet is where she’s supposed to be now, and that’s in a good place.”

To learn more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, contact the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division, at 314-264-7777 or go to https://dss.mo.gov/cd/adopt.htm.
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For more information contact:
Christine Bertelson
Public Information Office
Christine.Bertelson@gmail.com
314-615-2643 or 314-202-3400
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