Yesterday I got to attend an adoption! This event was a very long time coming. I have served as Guardian ad Litem of the child for almost 2 years, in an ugly, heart wrenching Child In Need of Assistance case; known this child for half of it's life. I watched his parents struggle and fight, deny and deflect responsibility, self-implode and spiral out of control. During that time his now-adoptive mother was there - watching, opining and at times advocating for the parents when it was warranted- but at ALL TIMES she was there to protect the child. To give him love and reassurance that everything was going to be okay. To fight for him - with me and, sometimes, against me - for what she believed was best for him.
Yesterday, with the court room filled with well-wishers, they finally became a family. I had never attended an adoption hearing before, and I was so moved by the excitement, love and expectation that was palpable in the courtroom while we waited for the judge. In CINA cases, the primary goal is always permanency for the child. DHS talks about "forever families"- it's a catch phrase that I always thought was kind of sappy before. But yesterday, I got to see, on the face of a child, what it means for a kid to have a "forever family." As stable, engaged parents, most of us probably take it for granted that our kids are secure, confident in who they are and what their life is. I know I did. Even practicing in juvenile law for the last seven years, in all the CINA cases I've had and all the families I have been involved with, with the knowledge I have about bonding, structure, etc. being crucial to children, I did not see the concept of permanency through the eyes of the child until yesterday. Joy. Pure joy that comes with knowing that you are loved above and beyond all others. In knowing that no matter what, no one is going to take you away from where you feel safe, secure and happy.
In the realm of juvenile law, there are very rarely truly joyful moments like that one. The adoptive mother said that she received a gift that day. The best gift she could ever get. And while it did not come without a price, the important thing is that that little person was able to sit in the witness stand, spell his new last name and tell the judge that his parents "loved him more than chocolate!" Forever.