The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) recognizes November as National Adoption Month. This is a time for all parents, children, judges, legal professionals, social workers, corporate leaders, and court system stakeholders to pause and consider the significant impact on fostered children, youth, and teens who are able to find permanent families in our communities and throughout the nation. In cities all across our country, there are older teenagers in foster care who face a future without stable and caring families to guide them into adulthood, while studies have shown that those who have a close relationship with a caring adult is crucial, at any age. For children, youth, teens, parents, and families, adoption paves the way for new beginnings and provides adolescents with a forever family who can help them reach their full potential. This year, the National Adoption Month’s theme is “Engage Youth: Listen and Learn.” The U.S. Children’s Bureau and its partners will share resources on how to engage youth to participate in their own case planning—an empowering practice that can improve outcomes and lead to greater opportunities for success in their lives.
The NCJFCJ’s mission is to provide judges, courts, and related agencies involved with juvenile, family, and domestic violence cases with the knowledge and skills to improve the lives of the families and children within the child welfare justice system. With approximately 432,997 abused and neglected children in care in the U.S., the NCJFCJ strives to provide judges, stakeholders, and communities with training and technical assistance to implement best practices and improve outcomes for abused and neglected children and their families.
The NCJFCJ supports its many national community partners, agencies, and courts that plan programs and activities for National Adoption Month, especially during these challenging times. This year we had the privilege to hear from NCJFCJ members and judges about how their jurisdiction or community is celebrating National Adoption Day this year and what type of virtual events they are holding. Take a look at some of the virtual events and ideas that were brought to the table.
Judge Darlene Byrne – 126th Judicial District Court, Austin, Texas – We will be doing 25 adoptions via zoom on our adoption day and having baskets delivered to the families’ homes of jewelry, and gifts. We will have warm cookies also delivered prior to the hearing. We will have a press conference as usual via Zoom at noon on adoption day.
Judge Laura A. Crivello – Milwaukee Circuit Court- Branch 36 – We are scheduled to hold 15 adoptions on National Adoption Day! All adoptions will occur on the zoom platform. Prior to the adoptions, we will have a zoom conference where a number of stakeholders will speak in celebration of the day. Jockey is providing backpacks, blankets, and pillows to all the children in the adoptive families along with books and information for the families.
Hon. Michele Pirro Bailey, JFC – Onondaga County – Syracuse, NY – This is our Fifth Judicial District’s 20th year of recognizing National Adoption Day with a community celebration. While we are unable to host an event in person, we are planning a virtual program for our judges, stakeholders, and most importantly, our adoptive families. The formal program will be followed by individual adoption finalizations conducted virtually. We are also still planning and organizing the details.
Chief Judge Michael K. Newell, Family Court of Delaware – We are holding three virtual adoptions with two of our Judges. We have invited our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the Cabinet Secretary for our Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Families, and the Director of the Division of Family Services
Laura Joiner, DHS – Frederick County – This year we did not plan anything in person due to the pandemic. We will be sending family-themed picture frames and cards out to all of our families. We also have adoptions scheduled for 2 siblings who are being adopted into the same family.
The NCJFCJ remains dedicated to working with communities, courts, and families in the continued support of National Adoption Month. As part of the NCJFCJ’s continued effort to raise awareness about this very important issue, the NCJFCJ will be publishing a series of articles from the perspective of various judges and advocates around the nation.