Carter County court system expedites cases to create ‘forever families’
Published 9:30 am Tuesday, November 25, 2014
The big morning had finally arrived.
An elderly man and his young granddaughter waited anxiously in the downstairs hallway of the Carter County Courthouse. “She’s about to get a new brother and sister,” the grandfather said. “There’s going to be a little boy in her house.”
The girl tugged at the older man’s hand, as if not quite sure she wanted to share grandpa with a little boy.
Upstairs in the courtroom, a woman beaming with both joy and excitement was consumed with tending to two rambunctious toddlers — 11 months separate the boy and girl, who could easily pass for twins. Before the day was over, the single woman would legally become their mother.
Saturday was National Adoption Day across the country. At the Carter County Courthouse, Chancellor John Rambo of the First Judicial District hosted his second annual Adoption Day, when hopeful guardians and the children who live with them saw their cases expedited in a single morning. One by one, the 19 families and 31 children, each with their attorney and caseworker, were called before the chancellor. And one by one, families listened to a smiling judge make the simple statement: “You are now the mother and father of …”
Each family had its own unique journey to this day. Many of them started as foster families, and they’re now, as the Chancellor called them, “forever families.”
Carol Gladden, who adopted her 3-year-old great niece, Alyssa, said her husband passed away seven years ago, leaving her lonely and with a lot of time and much love to give. “Alyssa needed a home and someone to love her, and I am able to give her both. In return, she has brought me so much happiness,” said Carol, who is also the mother of two grown sons in their 40s.
The Grills family of Kingsport saw their family increase by five at Adoption Day. The family adopted five siblings, all pre-school age. At the proceedings, the adoptive children were surrounded by supportive adult siblings, who assisted with the children.
Also included among the cases were parents adopting stepchildren and grandparents adopting grandchildren as their own sons and daughters.
“Yes!” was the exclamation of a young boy when the chancellor announced his adoption was final. His smiling grandparents, now his parents, stood on either side of the boy.
Another young child being adopted took the morning’s proceedings quite seriously. She was quick to speak up and correct the chancellor when he mispronounced her name, receiving both a smile and an apology from the judge before a packed courtroom.
Following the ceremony, the new and proud parents along with family and friends gathered downstairs at the courthouse to sign a stream of paperwork and enjoy refreshments and receive gift bags. Outside, a shiny red fire truck was parked for the children to inspect. The Chick-fil-A cow was present with chicken nuggets, sandwiches and tiny chicken biscuits. There were also trays of candy, cookies and cupcakes, along with cotton candy and popcorn for the families.
N. David Roberts, a Knoxville attorney, who represented several of the families at Adoption Day, said adoption is not an easy process.
“There’s plenty of paperwork and background checks,” he said. “In most cases, the parents had to become foster parents first. Then they had to wait for the biological parents to have their parental rights terminated.”
Roberts, who only does adoptions, “happy law” as he calls it, said more than 100,000 children in the United States wait in foster care for an adoptive family.
“Days like today have made the dreams of thousands of children and parents come true,” he said.
There were plenty of smiles to go around Saturday from both the new parents and their adopted children, as well as social workers.
Lisa Larimer, a case worker with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services in Carter County, said most of the children were too young to realize the significance of the day.
“There will be plenty of time in the years ahead to explain the day’s significance when parents tell the children about the morning they officially became family, when they all came together because of love,” Larimer said.
“It’s days like today that make my work rewarding,” she said.