George and Janice Flokstra of Hamilton adopt their grandchildren Audrey and David Mulcahey during the Michigan Adoption Day ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 22, presided over by Judge Michael Buck. (Photo by Ryan Lewis)The DeHaan family of Wayland adopted 14-month-old Abigail as part of Adoption Day. Pictured during the ceremony are (from left) Aiden, Abigail, mother Gretchen, Cameron, father Josh and Callen. (Photo by Ryan Lewis)Abigail sits on the lap of her newly adoptive mother, Gretchen DeHaan of Wayland. A toy turkey, a gift from the presiding judge Michael Buck, sits in the foreground. (Photo by Ryan Lewis)

Adoption Day brightens lives in time for holidays

By: 
Ryan Lewis, Editor

Several families made adoptions final last week as Allegan County joined more than 30 other Michigan counties participating in Michigan Adoption Day on Wednesday, Nov. 22.

Presiding Family Court Judge Michael Buck kept the event jovial with jokes, gentle ribbing of staff and, of course, the tradition of giving most anyone involved with the families the chance to bang a gavel and say, “It’s official.”

“Today is our favorite day of the year,” Buck said. “It’s something we all enjoy to celebrate, especially near Thanksgiving when we’re giving thanks for families.

“Much of what we deal with on a daily basis is not fun, (but) this is great to see when we have families stepping up and pulling together and seeing a permanent unit (form). Normally it’s already been established, but we’re just putting the legal certificate of approval on it.”

That was certainly the case for the Flokstra family.

George and Janice Flokstra had brought their late daughter’s grandchildren into their home nearly four years ago. Their daughter Nichole passed away in 2014.

“For us, (the adoption) was easy,” Janice Flokstra said. “Their fathers are not in their lives at all. We applied for the adoption more for stability than anything; we already had guardianship.”

She said the process was not too lengthy. She and George applied earlier this year to adopt David Mulcahey, 9, and Audrey Mulcahey, 11, so the whole process took perhaps six months.

“It feels good; we couldn’t wait until today was done,” she said.

Reflecting on her “new” children, she said, “Audrey looks exactly like my daughter. And she plays clarinet, just like Nichole.”

David has kept them on their toes, as Janice and George raised six children, but all of them were girls.

“Janice said, “He’s a goof ball. He definitely follows his papa (George) around, does everything he does.”

The DeHaan family also adopted from within their family.

Josh and Gretchen DeHaan of Wayland adopted Abigail, a 14-month-old born to Gretchen’s first cousin.

“We’re feeling very blessed,” Gretchen said. “God is good; this has been a long journey.”

Similar to the Flokstras, guardianship has led to adoption. The family has been caring for Abigail since she was 1 month old.

“It’s a journey; it’s not something that came to us easy,” Gretchen said.

They and other families each heard the pronouncement from Judge Buck and then friends and family were invited to speak. Some prayed and all congratulated the newly expanded families. Afterwards, they enjoyed snacks in a nearby jury room. Children of all ages were invited to take with them balloons, stuffed animals and other prizes that decorated the courtroom.

Normally, adoptions are closed proceedings, but for Adoption Day, some families agree to participate in an open courtroom.

Buck said that at any given time, Michigan has more than 14,000 children and youth in foster care.

“The vast majority of these young people are victims of abuse and neglect. While some will eventually return to their homes, or be placed with relatives, thousands more are still in need of permanent homes. We hope that our event will help educate the community about the plight of these young people.”

Jill Booth, Region 5 administrator from the Michigan Supreme Court Administration Office, said, “In recent years, thanks to the statewide adoption forums initiated by the Supreme Court and DHHS, we’ve been getting close to the goal of having an adoptive home for every child who needs one.

“That means people being willing to open their hearts and homes to a new family member. And that is what you’ve done today.

“I hope this event marks the first of many happy Thanksgivings with the new families created today.”

Noelle Bair, child welfare program manager with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for Allegan and Barry counties, said she was adopted. She told the families crowded into the courtroom that it had always made her feel special, unique and chosen.

“It is a narrative that runs through my life,” Bair said, noting she and her parents still celebrate her adoption day.

“Being an adoptive parent has its challenges,” she said, recalling adjusting to the new family when her parents adopted a younger brother and when, as a teen, she put diesel in her father’s gasoline-powered car. “But the reward is without measure.”

To the new adoptive parents in the courtroom, Bair said, “Thank you for the sacrifices you have made to get to this point. Thank you for choosing to open your hearts to the special children who are with you today.

“And to those being adopted today: you are special. You are chosen. You are unique. You are adopted.”

Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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