A new addition for the holidays

A cornucopia of hope spilled in Island County Superior Court last Thursday as five children watched their adoptions finalized.

Although one day early, two families are already giving thanks, ready to take on the holidays as a joined unit of affection. The love was there well before Thursday, but the ceremony made the commitment final.

Approximately 50 people filled Courtroom Two in honor of National Adoption Day. From attorneys, to court workers, to community members, to a slew of smiling young people adopted in previous years, the room was brimming with optimism.

Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill presided over the adoptions of biological siblings Nicole, Andrew and Michael Labelle, the newly adopted children of doting parents Rita and Kurt Labelle.

Judge Alan Hancock handled the adoptions for Caitlynn and Jordan Hobbs, whose now legal parents Linda Hobbs and Stephen Olney could hardly contain themselves.

Churchill said the children who on Thursday were patiently anticipating the final paperwork, are the lucky ones. She beseeched people with any interest in adopting children to seriously consider the prospect of becoming foster parents to take the selfless act for a test spin.

“They are the ones that have benefited,” she said of foster parents.

Hancock said the sheer number of children needing adoptive families is staggering. Looking out at the crowd, he was pleased with what he saw.

“This is a wonderful thing,” he said. “It’s a great need in our society.”

Jessica Torres, a remarkable young woman and an amazing success story, was adopted in February, just before her birthday. The 18-year-old spent most of her teen years in foster care. And many of those years are not marked by good memories.

Torres, now a college student with high aspirations and a bright future, was placed into foster care in sixth-grade after being pulled unexpectedly from her classroom one day. In the principal’s office, she was surprised to find her brother, sister and a representative from Child Protective Services.

“That was the last time I lived with my brother and sister,” Torres said. “For teens there aren’t very many homes. Everyone wants the younger ones.”

Speaking from experience, the impressive adoption advocate said teenagers often have short stints in prospective homes. People often view the older kids as a hassle. Torres is working to dissolve the stereotype.

“If you give us a chance, we’ll give you a chance,” she said.

Through tears, Torres addressed the soon-to-be adopted children in the courtroom.

“For the kids being adopted today, keep your family close and don’t ever let them go,” she said.

Karen Lerner, Island County court commissioner, said 12 adoptions were finalized in 2006, compared to a marked increase of 22 in 2007 as of Thursday.

“This is providing stable, secure, loving homes,” she said. “And it is benefiting the community.”

Myron Egbers, Department of Social and Health Services Children’s Administration adoption specialist, although ecstatic for the five children, seemed to view the culmination of the process as bittersweet.

“It’s been an honor to work with these five kids,” he said, also crediting the adoptive parents’ commitment and love.

Echoing the theme of the day, Egbers plugged the benefits of adoption, both for the parents and the children. A long process, perhaps, but well worth the energy.

“There’s a lot of hassle, but it is worth it,” he said.

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