National Adoption Day celebrated at Snohomish County Courthouse

EVERETT — Chauntelle and Miker Davis aren’t interested in being empty-nesters. After raising two children, now grown and gone, the Arlington couple started over Friday as new parents. On National Adoption Day, they were thrilled as three young siblings officially joined their family.

Kalionna, 9, Kierra, 7, and 5-year-old Kale were dressed up and ready as Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz conducted adoption proceedings — and let the kids strike the gavel.

“Whatever you do, enjoy this very special occasion,” Kurtz told the Davises, who were joined by relatives and other supporters carrying balloons.

“This is the best Christmas present in the whole world,” Chauntelle Davis said. She is 46 and her husband is 50. As they approached a time in life when some start to think of retirement, neither relished the prospect of a household without children. “We wanted to have kids,” said Chauntelle, who works at an Everett medical office.

They were among 32 families adopting 48 children at Friday’s local observance of National Adoption Day. Events here, including adoptions and a short program with gifts and refreshments, were co-sponsored by Snohomish County Superior Court and the County Clerk’s Office.

Several Superior Court judges participated, and for the special day adoptions were open to the public. Leis worn over the judges’ black robes lent a festive touch to normally somber courtrooms.

A family in “Team Miller” T-shirts appeared before Superior Court Judge George Bowden. Marta and Wendell Miller, of Monroe, adopted 7-year-old Naomi Joy. The little girl now has two big sisters, Isabelle, 10, and Ava, 8.

Before Bowden entered the courtroom, Pastor John Peterson, of the Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, recited a brief prayer for the Millers.

During the proceedings, Bowden offered the parents a good-natured warning. “Understand there’s no do-over if at 15 or 16 she starts exercising teenage behavior. You won’t get any relief here,” the judge told the Millers. He also spoke directly to Naomi, telling her “If your parents are making promises to you, it’s only fair you make promises to them,” and specifically mentioning homework.

After the adoption, Wendell Miller said that when he and his wife were first married they experienced infertility and considered adoption, but put it on hold. They went on to have two daughters before revisiting adoption.

During the reception for families, Kurtz said this is the 11th year for National Adoption Day to be observed in Snohomish County. It’s a day to raise awareness of the need for adoptive parents and “to celebrate forever families,” Kurtz said.

According to an Adoption Day proclamation from County Executive John Lovick, there are now about 1,300 children in foster care locally, more than 200 of them legally separated from birth parents and awaiting adoption. Nationwide, more than 100,000 children are in need of parents to adopt them.

On Friday, forever families were being created by parents and children of all ages. In Judge Marybeth Dingledy’s courtroom, 65-year-old Patricia Stewart was adopting Addison, who is 3. In her pretty black-and-white dress, Addison took her turn sitting in the judge’s big chair.

“This is my great-granddaughter,” Stewart said. The Stanwood woman has had Addison since the little girl was 17 months old. Stewart also raised two granddaughters after raising her own two sons.

During the program, Annemarie Russell, an English instructor at Everett’s Trinity Lutheran College, spoke about her sister being adopted when she was a girl, and about being the mother of an adopted son today. She played an acoustic guitar and performed a song, “Happy Adoption Day,” which is also a children’s book.

Annemarie Russell and her husband, Aaron Russell, had two older children when they adopted a boy from China. Matthew, now 4, has developmental delays and other issues, and has had multiple surgeries. Russell offered assurance to parents that they aren’t alone in their struggles.

“Most of you are adopting children who have been in your lives and in your care for many months already,” Russell said. “I have no idea the worry and anxiety you’ve faced — custody issues, behavioral challenges, navigating the state system — all because in your heart you knew that this child was meant to be part of your family.”

It’s been a long road to parenthood for the Davises, of Arlington. The biological parents of Kalionna, Kierra and Kale had their parental rights terminated two years ago, Miker Davis said. There were many placements for the siblings, who were sometimes split up. The Arlington couple praised their caseworker, Heidi Pless.

A social worker with the state Department of Social and Health Services in Mount Vernon, Pless was there Friday as the children joined the Davis family for all time.

“We need families from every community to step up,” Pless said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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