“This is your day.”
Magistrate Heather Mollo repeated that phrase over and over as she presided over adoptions for families Wednesday during a National Adoption Month Celebration at the Bartholomew County Courthouse.
On this day, in an unusual circumstance, cameras are allowed into courtrooms to document the adoption hearings — the smiles through the tears, the hugs, the humor and the celebration of children finding forever homes, witnessed by those who helped make it happen.
Some last names and even full names of adoptees changed during the court hearings to signify the formal adoption.
And although the children seemed a little oblivious to the seriousness of the moment, it was not lost on the judge presiding over the hearings.
Mollo took a moment to remind the children that Wednesday’s ceremony signified each had been chosen to be part of a family, something that is “a pretty cool thing.”
“You are a chosen child and you are being given one of the greatest gifts you can receive — a family. And you are giving this family one of the greatest gifts of all for them — a child for them to love,” Mollo said.
Some of the new adoptive parents came to their role as foster parents, and others through arrangements as extended family.
But each had a unique story that led them to the adoption hearing in Mollo’s courtroom on Wednesday, and to their new families.
A journey home
Patsy Foreman, Columbus, had raised her five children, and now has 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
But her heart found room for two more youngsters who became her sons on Wednesday — Logan, 7 and Dakota, 5.
Foreman, who had been the boys’ great aunt, is now their mother.
She assumed custody of them July 28, 2015, a date she states matter-of-factly as she says her intent to adopt them has been pending since then.
The boys, wearing matching new winter coats, cuddled with Foreman outside the courtoom as attorney Alan Whitted, who handled the adoption, asked them about the decals on their coats.
Patsy Foreman retired from Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. in 2005, and said she’s ready to take on the role of raising the two boys. She explained that without the adoption, the two could have been split up into different families, something she could not let happen.
“It wasn’t something I expected to do in my life at this point,” she said. “But it doesn’t take long to get attached.”
Amy Allison, Patsy Foreman’s daughter, said all of the Foreman children are excited to have new little brothers in the family.
“She’s had them for over a year and she’s pretty good at this mom thing,” Allison said of her mother. “This just seems natural, like the next thing that was supposed to happen. It answers that question, ‘Who are we, and how do we fit?'”
Tom Brosey, who represented the boys in the court system as their court-appointed special advocate (CASA), attended the adoption. Brosey said watching the boys officially become part of a family is “what it’s all about.”
The boys call him by his full name, “Tom Brosey,” when they see him, not Tom or Mr. Brosey, something he laughs about.
“I tell people it’s like ‘Madonna.’ I’m Tom Brosey.”
Brosey hopes to follow the boys lives as they grow up, but that will depend on the Foreman family’s wishes.
But he expects to see them now and then at the neighborhood bus stop. And both boys participate in programs at Foundation for Youth, where Brosey volunteers.
The boy’s caseworker, Jessica Jester, who now works out of Jackson County, brought the boys a special gift.
Jester, who has followed the boys’ story to adoption day, had dog tags made with the boys’ new initials and their date of adoption.
“She (Patsy) has been a blessing for the boys,” Jester said. “They feel really loved, and it’s just a great outcome.”
Making it official
Michael Derleth has known Matthew Foster since he was born. And since he’s now married to Matthew’s mother, the couple decided to make Matthew’s status as a Derleth official on Wednesday.
“We had been thinking about it and discussed it for about a year, and we decided it was time,” said Angela Foster, Matthew’s mother.
Matthew, 15, is a student at Columbus East High School. The teenager, who has autism, enjoys taking art classes at East.
The couple sat down with Matthew to explain that he was going to become a Derleth after Wednesday’s ceremony.
“He’s always known me as Dad,” Michael Derleth said before the adoption ceremony. “I’m very proud of him.”
Michael Derleth explained to the judge he had known Matthew since he was born.
When was asked if he understood the responsibilities he was taking on with adopting the teenager, he replied, “I’ve taken it on from Day 1.”
Tears were in Michael Derleth’s eyes as he grabbed Matthew’s hand after Mollo proclaimed the adoption final and that Matthew was now his son.
“This is your day, young man,” Mollo said to Matthew Derleth.
Traveling far for an adoption
A Greencastle family that loved the way Mollo handled their pending adoption of 10-year-old Daniel Williams, affectionately called D.J., traveled to Columbus to have Mollo officiate over the youngster’s official adoption Wednesday.
Paul and Tonya Ramey have been foster parents to the boy for four years. Now he joins the couple and their five children and another foster child, all boys ranging in age from 14 to 19, as part of the family.
The Rameys said they could have filed the adoption petition in Greencastle, but Mollo — who has been assigned to Bartholomew County’s juvenile court since 2000 — was special to them.
“We wanted her to be able to see the completion of something happy,” Tonya Ramey said of their decision to have the adoption in Bartholomew County.
When Mollo asked the youngster to give his name to the court, D.J., a foster child out of Bartholomew County, proudly said Zachary David Ramey, much to the delight of his new parents and siblings.
The Ramey family’s attorney, Jeff Boggess, mentioned that living near the Rameys when walking by, “there looks like there is a riot out there,” referring to the boys playing sports in the front yard.
Boggess said he normally wouldn’t travel that far to do an adoption hearing, but the Rameys’ adoption of the fourth grader was among the happiest things he gets to do as an attorney.
Zachary told the judge he enjoys playing sports with his new brothers; football, basketball and soccer are favored pursuits.
Spirited games of Pokemon, Uno and Sorry are also in the cards when the brothers are inside.
When asked what he thought of becoming part of the Ramey family, Zachary, who was decked out in a suit and tie, said, “Two thumbs up.”
Describing his new parents as kind and nice, Zachary said that they are also kind of funny at times.
“I just think they’re awesome,” he said.
At one point in the adoption hearing, Mollo asked the boy to turn around and look at all the people, his siblings, caseworkers and adoption personnel, who crowded into the courtroom to witness his adoption and wish him well.
“It’s my privilege to finalize your adoption,” the magistrate said to Zachary, as his mother grabbed his hand and leaned in for a hug.
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Information about the Indiana Adoption Program is on the Department of Child Services adoption web page at adoptachild.in.gov or by calling 888-25ADOPT.
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Indiana’s Department of Child Services reports there were 1,509 adoptions in fiscal year 2016 in Indiana, compared to 1,038 adoptions the prior year.
However, the department reports that the number of children seeking an adoptive family has also steadily increased; homes are being sought for 120 to 150 youth statewide. Of those, 80 percent are older than age 11 and a quarter are part of sibling groups.