For a day, world of foster child adoptions opens to the public eye

EVERETT — Oh, the story they have to tell their daughter about how she landed in their lives — and hearts.

Thomas Walter and Angie Scharbau are settling into their new roles as 8-month-old Wren Elisabeth’s parents and loving every minute. Getting to this part has been 10 years in the making.

There have been tears, lots of tears, hard decisions, hurdles, heartbreak, anxiety and even a lighting storm or two. It’s been a bumpy road, but waiting for Wren was worth the journey. Just ask her dad.

“She’s my little girl. I knew from the very first time I picked her up and held her,” Walter said. “She smiles at me and giggles and nothing else matters.”

He and his wife took the final step Friday to legally become Wren’s parents. They joined about 15 other families who adopted children in Snohomish County as part of National Adoption Day.

Child advocates launched the first adoption day in 2000 primarily to bring awareness to the thousands of foster children waiting for permanent homes.

There are about 8,200 children living in foster care in Washington. About 1,500 of those children are available for adoption.

Statewide about 140 foster children were expected to be adopted Friday. Dozens of other children who haven’t been in foster care also were welcomed into new families.

Typically adoptions are done behind closed doors. On Friday the courtroom was open to the public to share in the excitement of new parents, grandparents, siblings and aunts and uncles.

To start the morning off, Everett attorney Deane Minor explained to his clients that he and Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair once played on a softball team together. He encouraged the crowd to welcome the judge in a most unusual way.

“Let’s play ball,” they shouted as Fair took the bench.

The judge, who wore a lime green lei with her black robe, welcomed families up to the bench. She relinquished her gavel to the kids, who happily ended the formal stuff with a bang

“It is my favorite working day of the year,” Fair told the courtroom full of parents and snazzily dressed kids.

Walter and Scharbau were surrounded by more than a dozen relatives, friends and co-workers as they promised to care for the little girl they call “Bird.”

The pair have been married since 1994. They decided a decade ago that they wanted a child. However, they were concerned about genetic conditions in their families and worried about passing those along to a child. They decided that adoption was the best option for them, Scharbau said.

Three years ago the couple reached out to an adoption agency — they wanted a newborn to welcome into their family. They underwent house visits and created a family book for expectant mothers to review when choosing a family to raise their child.

They were notified last year that a mother had selected them. They spoke with her on the phone several times and made travel arrangements. Then the mother changed her mind.

“It was heartbreaking for us,” Walter said.

Two months passed and a second call came. A woman was expecting in March. She loved her daughter and wanted her to have a good home, a good life. She chose Walter and Scharbau to do what she believed she couldn’t.

Wren was born March 12. Two weeks later her parents left Washington to bring her home.

They flew through a strong rainstorm. Their hotel lost power for a day. They were so eager to meet their daughter they arrived 30 minutes early to the home of the woman who cared for Wren once she left the hospital.

“It was a dream come true and it was super, super scary,” Scharbau said.

Life has changed. There are fewer hours of sleep, diapers to change and money to save for braces and college.

There also are tiny hands and feet, first smiles and waves and sweet giggles. There is Wren.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

Foster parenting

For more information about how to become a foster parent, call 888-543-7414 or go to www.dshs.wa.gov.

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