The two of us are darn lucky. We each grew up in loving families. We both have been blessed with a couple of wonderful kids. And we became friends while coaching our sons on the soccer field.
But as long-time players in the legal field, we also know that many are not so fortunate. Today more than 129,000 American children linger in foster care, waiting to be adopted. That includes more than 1,400 kids in Washington alone. These are the foster children in our state who are ready and waiting for a permanent adoptive placement.
Every child wants a home; every child deserves a family. In part to raise awareness of the crying need for adoptive parents, National Adoption Day was first established in the year 2000. In less than a decade, National Adoption Day has grown to be celebrated in more than 300 locales, in all 50 states.
This year Gov. Chris Gregoire has proclaimed that Adoption Day will be marked in Washington on Friday. National Adoption Day will truly be a gala day at the Snohomish County Courthouse. Two courtrooms will be devoted exclusively to adoption hearings. There will be speeches, food, balloons, and yes, a few tears — of joy. More than two dozen kids will be adopted, and guaranteed a new family, for life.
But much more can be done; much more needs to be done. And you can help.
First, consider the possibility of becoming an adoptive parent yourself. Admittedly, that is a huge step — but one potentially ripe with huge rewards, to the child and to your family. Short of that, becoming a foster parent can be a valued option. You can start exploring the possibilities by going to www.dshs.wa.gov. That Web site has links to adoption exchanges, foster parenting info and many other resources.
Second, consider volunteering in court as a “guardian ad litem.” There’s obviously less obligation than as an adoptive/foster parent, but serving as a “VGAL” has its own commitments and rewards.
Each year more than 1,500 kids navigate through our county’s child welfare system. The “volunteer guardians ad litem” (“VGALs”) are court-appointed volunteers who come from all walks of life and who advocate for the best interests of children. They are given training, investigate cases of alleged child abuse or neglect, and then give “voice to the voiceless” in court. One hundred more VGALs are needed right now. Get more information by calling 425-388-7854, or e-mailing email@example.com.
Finally, even if you can’t commit time as an adoptive/foster parent or a VGAL at this time in your life, you can at least take note of National Adoption Day. Stop by the courthouse in Everett on Friday to witness the joy and the festivities. Or, if nothing else, stop and contemplate the vital role that adoptive parents and VGALs play in helping kids. For that, we all have much to be grateful for, and much to celebrate.
Dave Kurtz is a Snohomish County Superior Court Judge. Deane Minor is a longtime Everett attorney. Both are washed-up soccer players.