By Peter H. Milliken
Mahoning County Children Services and Probate Court staff assembled in the county courthouse rotunda for the third annual Adoption Day celebration, which rejoices in the creation of forever families.
Each year, courts and child-welfare agencies and their community partners observe November as National Adoption Awareness Month.
The Adoption Day celebration here Wednesday featured the finalization of the adoption of 19-month-old Aurora Lynn Ford by April Marie Ford of Austintown.
Aurora was born in Arizona, and the pre-adoption investigation was done by Mahoning County Children Services.
With her adoptive mother’s help, Aurora finalized her adoption by banging the gavel handed to her by Judge Robert N. Rusu Jr. of the county’s probate court.
“It’s the most wonderful thing you can do for a child to give them a better life,” April Ford said after the ceremony.
“You get to live with them, teach them and watch them grow. It’s just great,” she said of the joy of adoption.
“We found a loving home and a safe and stable place for another child to be raised,” said Sarah Pinciaro, the Children Services caseworker, who performed the pre-adoption investigation.
Atty. Anna Ciambotti, who represented Ford, said adoption is the happiest part of her legal practice “because it brings children, who have a need for stability and love, [to be] matched with an adoptive parent or parents, who can provide that home, that stability, that love for that child.”
Judge Rusu told the crowd: “Giving a child a permanent home is one of the most significant things that you can do in a child’s life. It will have a direct benefit on that child for the rest of their lives.”
To adopt a child, the judge added, “You don’t need to be rich. You don’t need to be married. You don’t need to own your own home. ... You simply need to have the ability to love and to share your life with a child.”
In Ohio, adoption services are provided by public child-welfare agencies, such as Children Services, which has 43 children available for adoption.
“These 43 kids, and thousands that came before them, and the thousands that will come after them, need real people that can put them to bed at night, tend to a wounded knee, comfort them when they get dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend and be there for all of the good and the bad of life,” Randall Muth, Children Services executive director, told the audience.
Thirteen of the 43 children have been matched with potential permanent homes.
Of the remaining 30 children, permanency plans have been identified for 11 children, while 19 still await permanent homes.
Last year, Children Services, along with the county probate court, finalized the adoptions of 20 children.
Thirteen of the 20 children were under the age of 9, while seven of the adopted children were older.
National Adoption Day is a collective effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 American children who are waiting in foster care to be adopted.
Each year, more than 23,000 children – 835 in Ohio alone – “age out” at 18 years old, without ever having families to call their own.
The event featured the East High School Junior ROTC Color Guard, a performance by the Canfield High School Drum Line and the annual balloon launch.
The balloon launch, previously done outdoors from the courthouse steps, was done indoors this year to avoid potential hazards to animals and the environment associated with outdoor latex balloon releases, officials said.