Adoption finalizations give local children ‘permanence, a future they otherwise wouldn’t have’
IONIA COUNTY — Laughter and happy voices of all ages echoed down the halls on the third floor of the Ionia County Courthouse Tuesday as five children were welcomed permanently into forever families through adoption.
Ionia County Probate Court Judge Robert Sykes Jr. presided over the Michigan Adoption Day proceedings during which four families, two from Ionia County and two from Montcalm County, finalized the adoptions of their sons and daughters — all of them “great kids and great families,” Sykes said.
He noted that, in almost every adoption he finalizes, one of the parents will tell him, “We already view him as our son or her as our daughter.” He has a ready response, and it is the same response every time.
“I always tell them I am dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to the relationship the family has already recognized,” he said. “It is important we give legal recognition to the social relationship that has already developed. There needs to be the finality that is giving these children permanence and giving them a future that they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
All of the children adopted Tuesday were initially removed from their birth parents in child protection proceedings, according to Sykes. Ultimately parental rights were terminated and the children became permanent wards of the state, he added.
“In a couple of the finalizations these were relatives who took on the responsibility to get licensed as foster parents and adopt the children,” Sykes said. “In other cases, these were foster parents who have no relationship to the child initially but who take them into their homes, love them and provide them with permanence.”
Michigan Adoption Day has become Michigan Adoption Month in most communities across the state, but in Ionia County it is still observed in its traditional form, said Sykes.
“The Tuesday before Thanksgiving we celebrate Adoption Day as an opportunity to finalize adoptions and highlight the need for more families to become foster families and play such an important role in the life of a child,” he said. “Too many children are sitting in foster care waiting to be adopted — 3,000 in Michigan at any given time.”
It’s been a busy year for adoptions in Sykes’ courtroom. Including the five children whose adoptions were finalized Tuesday, 21 children have been adopted this year — a record number in the 13 years Sykes has been a judge. And those were, hands down, his favorite proceedings to be part of. He said he becomes emotional every time.
“I always have tears in my eyes,” Sykes said. “It’s an honor to be a part of it.”