Her adoptive father, Nick Denault, took the stand and spoke about his ability to care for a her, while Jaiden herself mostly sat silently and watched. The hearing had a celebratory feel to it, mostly punctuated with nervous laughter— especially when Nick Denault said he wouldn’t back out now. Friends and family crowded the two on their way out of the courtroom, where Jaiden, 16, told a Herald reporter her new family name for the first time.
“People have already asked me in school, but this the first time I’ve said it when it’s official,” Jaiden said. She’s glad the paperwork-heavy process is done, and that afternoon, she was ready to spend time “just hanging out, being a family.”
Jaiden was one of eight children adopted by five different families at the Grand Forks County Courthouse on Saturday in observance of National Adoption Day, an event organized by local adoption officials that helps spotlight not just the day’s families, but the need for adoptive parents in the the Red River Valley.
“We have, currently, 30 kids in North Dakota who are looking for their forever family,” said Molly Schaefer, supervisor for the Grand Forks regional offices of the Adults Adopting Special Kids, which works with county officials to place foster children in adoptive care. “They have no options at this point, and we’re looking for families for them.”
The morning started with a rapid-fire series of adoption hearings before a midmorning ceremony observing the day’s importance. District Court Judge Lolita Romanick, who presided over the day’s adoptions, brought a basket of apples and a bouquet of roses to help drive home the point that beautiful, worthwhile things—like families grown through adoption—are often built by the hard work of grafting things together.
“Courthouses aren’t always pleasant places. A lot of the work we do isn’t very enjoyable, from perspective that we know a lot of people are hurting,” Romanick said. “But adoptions are one of the great things, because we know people are happy and it’s a fun thing to participate in.”
Jaiden is joining a sprawling family she’s known in the foster system for years. She and three sisters share the same mother, and one of them has also been adopted by Kelli Curran, Nick Denault’s fiance. Both Curran and the elder Denault have three children of their own—many of whom are women.
“One more girl,” Nick Denault said shortly after the hearing concluded. “It’s something to get up for in the morning. Something to go to work for.”