Michael Houser's excitement was clear as he explained Adoption Day was something he and his family had been waiting on.
“I was adopted, so it means a lot to me to be able to come and adopt Brayden and be that figure in his life that can lead him to become a better adult,” Houser said of his 10-year-old stepson. “I had that in my life, so that's why it means a lot to me.”
Adoptions are processed through Allen Superior Court monthly, but one day each year, the second floor of the Allen County Courthouse is transformed with party attire to celebrate children finding their forever families.
About 35 families had adoption hearings in Fort Wayne on Thursday as part of Adoption Day. The national awareness day is celebrated by courts across the country to draw attention to foster children who need homes, Judge Lori Morgan said.
Many of the children have been in foster care leading up to Adoption Day but, for some families, it's about making it official.
“When we got married, he took us both as a package deal,” Kelli Houser said with Brayden by her side.
“It's all I've been able to think about,” Brayden said.
Each family was greeted by decorations following the theme of “The Wizard of Oz.” Golden bricks made of paper led the families to their hearings.
Morgan said Adoption Day warms her heart. Allen County has observed the day since 2007 and was the first community in Indiana to celebrate, she added.
“I'm going to sleep well tonight just remembering the smiling faces of the kids and the parents, seeing how great they feel becoming part of a forever family,” she said.