Cameras in the courtroom: Families celebrate adoption day, as media document event

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.


Adoption Day

Stephenie and Chad Weaver get a chuckle as Chloe Weaver waves to Judge Stephen R. Galvin during adoption proceedings Monday in Monroe County Family Court. Five families officially adopted children Monday in the court. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

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.”


Adoption Day, Monroe Court, foster care

Family court Judge Stephen R. Galvin smiles as he watches new families take photos in his courtroom during adoption proceedings Monday in Bloomington. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

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.”


Adoption Day

Nancy and Joel Barker raise their right hands as they are sworn in during adoption proceedings Monday. The Barkers adopted 4-year-old Lylah Barker, on Nancy’s lap, and brought their youngest biological daughter, Noel Barker, along. Chris Howell | Herald-Times


Adoption Day

Friends and family of Joel and Nancy Barker take photos and cheer them on as they adopt Lylah Barker, 4, during court proceedings Monday in Bloomington. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

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.”


Adoption Day

Joel Barker gives his newly adopted daughter, Lylah Barker, 4, a kiss on the cheek as he holds his youngest biological daughter, Noel Barker, 1, during adoption proceedings Monday in Monroe County Family Court. Barker and his wife, Nancy Barker, were among five families that officially expanded their circle Monday. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

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.


Adoption Day

Local family law attorney Tammy Minger smiles as she watches families take their first official family portraits during adoption proceedings Monday in Monroe County Family Court. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

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.

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