Superior Court in Montesano looked a little different on Friday, Nov. 18.
Teddy bears took the witness stand and balloons, cupcakes and flowers decorated the normally staid courtroom. Smiling parents and happily shrieking children ran up and down the seats in the gallery. Six children, who had been placed in foster care, were adopted to permanent families— just in time to be home for the holidays.
The multiple adoptions were coordinated to as part of National Adoption Day, which raises awareness of the thousands of children in foster care awaiting permanent homes. National Adoption Day was founded in 2000 with Washington’s statewide celebration launched in 2005 by the state Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care.
National Adoption Day is co-sponsored by the Department of Social and Health Services Children’s Administration, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Superior Court Judges’ Association and by WARM 106.9’s Teddy Bear Patrol program.
“When a foster child is adopted into a new family, their lives change forever. They find the stability and nurturing they need to become confident adults,” King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum said in a press release. Lum, Chairman of the Washington State National Adoption Day Steering Committee, was himself an adopted child. “Adoptive parents are special. By opening their hearts and their homes, they change the lives of these children and the communities where we live,” Lum said.
One Aberdeen couple was adopting a two-year old boy into their family on National Adoption Day. Tammy and Herb Hathaway have grown biological children, adopted children and foster children, not to mention the grandkids.
Easton, who is 2, was four months old when he started his foster care with the family.
“It’s hard to let go,” Tammy Hathaway said. And so, Easton became the third child the Hathaways have adopted from foster care. Her family, said Hathaway, has embarked on a team adventure and the support of her grown children has been crucial in creating a healthy and safe home for the foster and adopted children. The “growns” as she call them, provide respite care when Herb and Tammy take much-needed breaks — especially as some of their children have medical issues.
Hathaway said her family probably would not adopt again but will continue to foster children. Some children who have been fostered with the Hathaways have been reunited with their birth families.
“It’s the best heartache you’ll ever have,” Hathaway said. “When you have to let go, it’s hard. But when a family fails, that’s hard, too. So, it’s good to celebrate the adoptions.”
Hathaway encouraged other families and even single people to pursue fostering and to support foster families.
“You don’t have to be a foster — there are lots of ways to support foster kids just by supporting foster families,” Hathaway said. “Help in whatever capacity. Christmas with seven kids can be tough, so if you can help out that way, or offer to watch the kids or just volunteer. Be a big brother or big sister. That little bit goes a long way in making a difference in a kid’s life.”
On National Adoption Day, Denise Schmoe, a single mother from Humptulips, adopted Arin, the ten-year-old daughter of a cousin who died about two years ago.
“It took about six months to get the adoption finalized,” Schmoe said. “And, it took about six months to get her into my home, and then another six months for the adoption, so it’s been about a year.”
Schmoe has eight children, two of which were adopted. After the formal adoption hearing on Nov. 18, Schmoe took off for Alaska to introduce Arin to her grown sons.
“We went to Tastee Freez and there was a sign that said, ‘Welcome to the family, Arin Schmoe,” Arin said about her visit to Alaska.
Schmoe said her daughter was adjusting well. When asked how she manages her large family, Schmoe laughed.
“I seemed to be blessed. But you just do what you have to do,” Schmoe said. “You do the best you can. It’s so worth it.”
According to Danielle Fisher of Children and Family Services, there are about 8, 800 kids currently in foster care in Washington State, with about 1,600 legally free for adoption and waiting to be adopted into permanent families. Fisher said there are about 280 children in foster care in Grays Harbor County.
Adoption social workers select families who are close to finalizing adoptions to participate in Adoption Day, said Fisher.
“The actual adoption takes about five minutes, after months of work, but this is a celebration,” Fisher said.