Seventeen children’s adoptions were made official Monday at the Cascade County courthouse with a ceremony.
Mondays at the Cascade County courthouse are almost never as happy as it was on Nov. 20.
Seventeen children, from age 17 down to only a few years, were officially connected with new families in the annual adoption ceremony.
Havanna, a 10-year-old girl adopted by her uncle, couldn’t have landed in a better spot.
“I asked them to adopt me,” she proudly said after the ceremony. “I wanted to have a nice family.”
Jeff Fenner, Sr., who adopted Havanna, said she had been in a few different homes by age 10 and understood the gravity of the adoption ceremony. He and his wife Kathy were beaming when the adoption process was complete.
“It’s a relief, it’s a pleasure. We got another daughter,” he said.
“It’s a huge day,” Resource Family Specialist Lizette Hofer said. “There are people that take the day off to see this. It’s the end (of the process) and you know the kids are in a great place.”
Most of the children come from broken homes, picked up by the state while the justice system processes their parents. Hofer said it takes months just to get the paperwork done. Finalizing the process requires cooperation from local, county and state agencies, she said.
In 2016, state officials reported 3,126 Montana children in the foster care system. During the regular legislative session earlier this year, that number was reported to be over 3,400.
There were more than a few tears as, one by one, children and their soon-to-be families were called to the front of an overflowing courtroom to finalize the adoption process, signed and sealed with a stuffed animal or bear for the children. Judge Greg Pinski, presiding over each of the cases, brought most of the children up to the bench with him to talk about their favorite things, like colors, movies, music, and let them pound the gavel. Near the gallery, bags and bags of gifts awaited new families.
Great Falls Mayor Bob Kelly spoke at the ceremony and revealed a resolution signed by the entire city commission naming November 2017 “Adoption Awareness Month.” He lauded the parents who decided to make a home for the children without one, and the parents who made the difficult decision to put their children into foster care. He said each year, the event is a source of great joy.
“Magic happens in this room,” he said.
Before the ceremony began, Pinski spoke about the value of bringing these children into good homes.
“They’re giving these children the best gift someone can give a child, and that’s love,” he said.
Several of the children, like Havanna, were adopted by family members, while others became apart of entirely new families. One family who adopted a young Blackfeet girl learned the tribe’s language and customs ahead of finalizing the adoption to be able to raise her with her own heritage.
While children cycled through a foster care system, some new family members said they spent years working through the process to take guardianship of a child.
“It was so nice to have it over with,” said Janice Zigan, who adopted a 3-year-old girl on Monday. “No more disappointment. She knows she has family here for her, and she got a whole new family in the process.”
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