Monroe County Family Court — now in it’s 55th year — has finalized more than 14,200 adoptions.
Over the last decade and a half, the court’s celebration of National Adoption Day has endeavored to raise our community’s awareness surrounding adoption. While adoption numbers nationwide have remained consistent since the late 1980s, there has been a shift, particularly in New York, increasing the number of children adopted from foster care.
One reason for this shift is the rising tide of relatives, certified as foster parents, who now adopt. Social Services Law 398 (16) gives relatives preference becoming certified foster parents. The law recognizes that adoptive children are often torn between a perplexing desire to rescue and remain connected to their biological parents and their love for their potential adopted families. In placing a child with a relative, we hope to lessen the trauma he/she experiences when removed from their biological parents.
Children in foster care have lost what most of us take for granted: a connection to loving and nurturing parents. The chaos created by substance abuse, unaddressed mental illness and/or physical violence have left these children without safe, permanent homes.
A person naturally would be inclined to do anything to help out an at-risk child, particularly within their own extended family. But like all other foster care parents, the demands of and the sacrifices made by relative foster parents are extensive. A relative, often on short notice, needs to adjust work, school and household sleeping arrangements to accommodate a myriad of needs created by a child’s at-risk beginnings.
Today many loving relatives step forward to adopt, filling the gaps in care left by biological parents. By acts of unconditional love, and sometimes outside services, all parents who adopt children in foster care surmount behavioral and emotional challenges arising from at-risk beginnings. Adoptive parents often are awed by the sheer resiliency of their adopted child.
Our celebration allows our community to hear from the children themselves and their adoptive parents, whether relatives or not, about their journey.
Foster care adoption expands rather than diminishes our concept of family. Adopted children gain new brothers and/or sisters while staying connected to biological ones, often bridging two families.
By definition, to foster means “to bring up, raise, or rear,” but to adopt means “to choose or take as one’s own child.” Foster connotes something temporary, but to adopt connotes something permanent. To adopt a child is to take him from the uncertainty of not knowing where or in what conditions he will live tomorrow, to a place in a forever family. That love covers it all.
The formal court adoption proceeding bears great significance for a child marking the start of his forever family. National Adoption Day celebrates the finalization of adoptions of any age — Monroe County Family Court Room 303, Hall of Justice, Nov. 16 at 10 a.m. All are welcome.
Judge Dandrea Ruhlmann serves on the Monroe County Family Court.