Friday, November 17, 2006
Los Angeles Juvenile Court to Hold ‘Adoption Saturday’
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
Los Angeles County’s Juvenile Court in Monterey Park is scheduled to host its 23rd Adoption Saturday tomorrow as part of Court Adoption and Permanency Month events being held statewide.
The nine-year-old Superior Court program is designed to stimulate the public’s interest in adopting local foster children awaiting permanent homes. It is scheduled to run from 8:45 a.m. to noon, with a press conference at 9 a.m. on the fifth floor and hearings in various courtrooms to finalize a total of 200 adoptions.
Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash, who created the program along with retired Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partner Steven A. Meiers, expressed enthusiasm about tomorrow’s event.
“It’s a very, very positive day and it’s been that way consistently since 1998 when we started this,” he told the MetNews. “It’s really a way for the public to understand that positive things to happen to lots of children that come into the child protection system—they do leave the system in safe, loving , permanent homes. And it gives the public a chance to see, through all the publicity that these events garner, that we’re not talking about damaged people, we’re talking about beautiful needy children who need a home.”
In addition to courtroom celebrations at the completion of each adoption, courthouse hallways will be festively dressed with decorations, balloons and refreshments, Nash said. Child performers and the Bugs Bunny character will also be present to entertain families, an event spokesperson added.
“What we do is create an oxymoron: a happy courthouse,” he remarked. “It’s really a great thing to watch.”
Pro bono lawyers provided by the Alliance for Children’s Rights and Public Counsel, a dozen judicial volunteers, and volunteer staff will collaborate to make the program possible, he explained, adding that over 7,000 Los Angeles adoptions have been completed through the program since its inception.
Also planning to celebrate Adoption and Permanency Month this weekend are the San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Sacramento superior courts.
The Los Angeles event coincides with National Adoption Day, created in 2000 by the Alliance for Children’s Rights, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and the Freddie Mac Foundation as an offshoot of the Los Angeles County program.
Cynthia Billey, staff attorney for the alliance’s Foster Children’s Adoption Project, said tomorrow’s event will also be the focus of National Adoption Day, which aims to raise awareness about adoption through collaboration by benches, bars and social service agencies nationwide.
“What you’ll be seeing in L.A. is the national press conference for the whole country,” she explained. “The media will be seeing here in L.A. a reflection of what is going on in courtrooms across the country.”
The press conference will include remarks by Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services Director Patricia Ploehn, members of the National Adoption Day coalition, and a reading of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proclamation in support of the national event as well as the state’s efforts to increase adoptions of foster children, Billey said.
Actress Christine Lahti will attend the event as a supporter and to assist with an public adoption that will immediately follow the press conference, the attorney added.
Nash said it was “pleasing to see that this little program we started here in Los Angeles has had such a significant nationwide impact.”
Since the Alliance led efforts to spread the idea of Adoption Saturday to other jurisdictions in 2000, the number of cities holding the event has grown and this year almost 250 cities across all 50 states will be celebrating it, including San Diego, Fresno, San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento. Last year, 200 courts around the country participated to complete 3400 adoptions.
Billey said that what began as a “practical thing” in Los Angeles County to address a large backlog of adoption cases has become a much larger way to celebrate and feature children in need of homes.
“As long as there are children who need to be adopted, we’re going to continue doing this.”
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company