Event: Adoption Day Celebration
Date: November 17, 2023
Location: Family Justice Courthouse, San Jose, CA
When a child enters the dependency court system, reunifying the child with their family is always the goal. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. In most cases, the child remains in the system long-term until aging out at 21.. But in some cases, the child is adopted, which is an occasion worth celebrating. On November 17th, we were honored to participate in Santa Clara County’s 17th Annual Adoption Day Celebration.
National Adoption Day was originally established both as a way to address the backlog of adoptions at Los Angeles County’s Juvenile Court—one of the busiest courts in the nation—and as a way to bring awareness to the thousands of children across the nation waiting to be adopted out of foster care. In recognition of this day, courts and communities throughout the United States honor adopting families and finalize thousands of adoptions at celebratory events.
At Santa Clara County’s Superior Court, six judges were selected from a pool of many hoping to volunteer their time on this special day, and justice partners gathered early Friday morning to witness the official union of 18 families. It was a momentous occasion as 23 children moved out of the foster care system and into permanent, loving homes. Adoptive parents swore to treat their adoptive children as their natural children in all respects and promised to share their lives with them, mold their minds, nurture their bodies and enrich their spirits, never betraying their trust, dampening their hopes or discouraging their dreams. They vowed to be patient and kind and committed to cherishing their adoptive children all the days of their lives.
Amongst those present were several Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteers who had previously worked with these children, including Child Advocates Board Member Ehi Oiyemhonlan whose foster youth, Devahn, was adopted and officially joined his siblings in their forever family. Long-time CASA Cindy Musumeci was also in attendance to see brothers Aiden and Levi find a permanent home with their former resource parents, Charmaine and Alan.
After Aiden and Levi entered dependency, there was a strong possibility the brothers would be separated. Cindy was assigned as their CASA, and she played a pivotal role in ensuring Aiden and Levi remained together throughout multiple moves, including placements outside of Santa Clara County. She was one of very few consistent adult figures in their lives and advocated tirelessly for their well-being on multiple fronts.
Using her background in special education, she made sure both children had the resources and support they needed to thrive in school and even arranged for their triennial evaluations to be conducted by their original educational team rather than unfamiliar teachers and clinicians in their out-of-county districts. When she had concerns about a particular placement, Cindy collaborated closely with Social Worker Emma Burke to examine the situation more closely and eventually advocated for the brothers to be moved to another family’s care. And when she met first-time resource parents Charmaine and Alan, Cindy worked with them to ensure Aiden and Levi settled in seamlessly, quickly noticing the deep connection the four developed as a family. “I saw such engagement with Charm and Alan from the very beginning,” Cindy said. “Everything is so filled with love.” For Cindy, this is the best possible outcome for the brothers, and she is thrilled for what lies ahead.
After the hearings concluded, the families came together for a true celebration, complete with balloon art, crafts, personalized gift bags courtesy of Child Advocates and a pop-up photo studio that captured each child’s very first family portrait.
“The definition of ‘adoption’ is the social, emotional and legal process in which children who will not be raised by their birth parents become full and permanent legal members of another family. That’s what adoption is. But we know it’s so much more.” — Hon. Shawna Schwarz