Brooklyn, Lylah, Chloe and Aidan celebrated National Adoption Day big-time on Monday. They got adopted.
And the court hearings that made them officially part of their new families were documented by media photographs and videos in a statewide project that allowed cameras in the courtroom to promote and increase awareness of adoption.
Monroe Circuit Judge Stephen Galvin was among 32 Indiana judges who allowed photos and videos — for just one day — inside their courtrooms. The Indiana Supreme Court authorized news media cameras in court for uncontested adoptions; state statute prohibits the practice unless there is a special order such as this.
Galvin said he oversees 120 to 150 adoptions every year. They are a high point for the juvenile court judge, who too often deals with children in trouble with the law. “I’d like to see a lot more adoptions,” he said. “It’s about the only time you’ll hear applause in this courtroom.”
There was thunderous clapping from family members and friends when Galvin announced to Joel and Nancy Barker that they are now and forever the official parents of 4-year-old Lylah, who clutched a flower bouquet and smiled on command for pictures after the hearing.
Lylah was almost 3 years old, “a very scared and angry little girl,” 26-year-old Nancy Barker said, when she arrived in the Barkers’ home as a foster child. “And now, she is so nurturing and loving.”
She attributes the girl’s transformation to family. “I think it was her sisters. They have created the strongest bond, and I think they give her more than we ever could as the parents. It’s been a joy to see the process grow.”
The Barkers have two biological daughters, aged 3 and 1, and also a 3-year-old foster daughter who moved in with the family a few weeks after Lylah.
Four little girls. “Most people thought we were crazy,” Barker said of taking in children with troubled pasts. “But the risk is more than worth the opportunity to love these kids. I cannot imagine our life without them.”
Phillip and Louann Collier of Spencer had three children born to them; two are adults and one died at the age of 14. Monday afternoon, they became parents of their sixth adopted child; they are rearing four boys and two girls who range in age from 2 to 11. “This one here,” Phillip Collier told the judge, “is the final one.”
All six children were present in court, shushing one another as the five-minute hearing commenced.
Two-year-old Aidan sat on his new dad’s lap. “This is the sixth child I’ve helped them adopt,” lawyer Tammy Minger said as Galvin announced, “Once again, you are parents.”
The Colliers are in their 50s and have been married for 37 years. “I feel young, and these kids keep me busy,” said Louann Collier, who used to run a day-care center and is used to having kids underfoot. Aidan has been with the family since he was born. A phrase on his shirt, “Property of Mom and Dad,” summed up the events of day.
Brandi Sears is a dental assistant and graduate student who has been the court-appointed special advocate, or CASA, representing Aidan’s interests in court proceedings. She’s known him since he was a baby, and was as proud as the new parents on this day. “It’s so exciting to see him with his siblings and his family,” she said as the toddler inked his thumb and placed it on a piece of paper printed with a family tree.
After the cameras had cleared the courtroom and the celebratory cupcakes had been consumed, the Weaver family headed out of the Charlotte T. Zietlow Justice Center. Stephenie Weaver held one of her just-adopted 2-year-old daughter’s hands, and her 16-year-old son Andrew took the other, as they helped new family member Chloe Weaver dance down the steps.