PORT ANGELES — Wiggly children tugged at the red and blue balloons floating around the courtroom in anticipation.
Soon, Wyatt Johnson, 7, Connor Reynolds, 9, Dylan Reynolds, 12, and Rodrigo Cruz Chavez, 11, would face the attorney.
On Thursday morning, the four children sat at a long table across from attorney Steve Gish, listening as their caregivers raised their right hands and solemnly swore to fulfill a lifelong commitment in every way.
The public adoption finalizations took place during the fifth annual National Adoption Day at Clallam County Superior Court. Several hailed the occasion as a magical day. Johnson carried a sign marking his “Forever Family Day.”
Clallam County Superior Court Commissioner W. Brent Basden described the foster care and adoption process leading up to this day as “the best of times and the worst of times.”
Seventeen-year-old Winter Holmgren found that to be true.
Holmgren, one of the speakers, recalled her almost-forever home.
“I was with the family for several years, and while I asked if they would adopt me, they would not commit,” she said.
“Then, one morning, I went downstairs and saw all my belongings in boxes around the living room.”
“Are we moving?” Holmgren asked.
“No, you are going to a new home,” her foster mother replied.
“My first instinct was to cry and ask what I did wrong,” Holmgren recalled.
“I was not given the opportunity to say goodbye to my foster brothers and father. They had already left in the morning before I had woken.”
Soon, Holmgren heard a knock on the door and saw a truck in the driveway. When Holmgren arrived after the three-hour “long, boring and tense” drive, she found her new foster mother standing on the porch.
That night, she tucked Holmgren into bed several times after she arose anxiously. The ensuing months allowed the foster mother and daughter to form a relationship with space for vulnerability.
“Will you ever adopt me?” Holmgren asked abruptly one morning.
This time, there was no circumventing the question. Her foster mother said she had been waiting until Holmgren expressed interest on her own accord. And she did.
On Dec. 17, 2010, Holmgren’s adoption was finalized in Clallam County Superior Court.
“It was a great moment to know I found my forever home,” she said. “It’s exciting to see other kids find their forever families today I like found mine.”
Judge Ken Williams drew on football lingo to illustrate the journey to adoption.
“It’s as if the ball started down on the other end and there’s been a lot of issues, a lot of defenses, a lot of problems, and it’s made its way — not down to the 1-yard line, but the 1-inch line,” he said.
“Today, we get to walk the ball into the end zone and make that touchdown.”
The Dave Thomas Foundation estimated more than 5,000 children were adopted on or around National Adoption Day across 400 cities.
Since 2000, about 65,000 children have been recorded moving from foster care to permanent homes on this day.
To become an advocate for children in foster care in Clallam County, contact coordinator Jennifer Petty of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program at 360-565-2644.
Reporter Sarah Sharp can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].