Even in today’s increasingly globalized world, with governments that spend trillions serving constituents living thousands of miles away, the strongest bonds between people are still found the same place they have been since the beginning of civilization: the family.
Just like how one cannot build a home without placing the structure atop a stable foundation, a society cannot function without strong families making up its base, said Michigan Sen. John Proos inside the Cass County Circuit courtroom in Cassopolis Tuesday.
“It begins with families, making up those foundation blocks,” Proos said. “They build a strong neighborhood, a stronger community, a stronger state and county, a nation and finally our world as a whole. What makes our nation great, and will keep our nation strong in the future, is the family that you begin with today.”
Several local families grew that much stronger that afternoon, during the 15th annual Cass County Adoption ceremony. Three local children were officially adopted into their foster families during the event, while another three were adopted by their step-fathers.
Presiding over the adoptions was Cass County Probate and Chief Judge Susan Dobrich, who was responsible for bringing Adoption Day — an occasion celebrated around the Thanksgiving holiday across Michigan — to Cass County. Also in attendance were several local and state dignitaries, including Michael Talbot, chief judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals.
According to Dobrich, since Cass County began celebrating Adoption Day, more than 633 adoptions have been finalized at the Cassopolis courthouse.
Among the families responsible for growing that figure was that of Craig and Maiya Fitch, of Covert, who adopted their 11-year-old foster daughter, Bree, that afternoon. Joined by their other children — as well as Bree’s biological sister, who has been taken in by another local foster family — the parents’ eyes beamed with joy as Dobrich made the adoption final, with Maiya bringing Bree in for a tight hug as the courtroom rang with applause.
Maiya said that she and her husband made the decision to adopt last summer, wanting to add another child to the family. The couple has three biological boys, and also adopted a youth, Mezi, from Ethopia in 2011.
“It was something that wouldn’t leave me alone in my heart,” Maiya said. “I felt like we had room for one more in our family.”
An adoption agency placed Bree with their family at the beginning of April, and she has lived with them ever since. Maiya said that Bree felt like one of she and Craig’s children right away.
“She is so much like us,” Maiya said. “She was like the perfect piece to complete our puzzle.”
Bree — who celebrated her adoption by gleefully joking and playing with her sister in the waiting area outside the courtroom, with a little smear of chocolate cake along the side of her mouth — summed up her feelings about the experience quite succinctly.
“I feel happy,” she said.
Dowagiac’s Stacey and Tamara Wilder also had a lot to celebrate Tuesday, as Dobrich finalized their adoption of 4-year-old Falynn that afternoon.
While their foster daughter seemed more interested in grinning ear-to-ear for the photographer inside the courtroom during the ceremony, for Tamara, listening to the judge declare the addition of Falynn to their household made her eyes well up with tears.
Like with the Fitch family, the Wilders had all four of their biological children present in the courtroom that afternoon, including their two sons, who came up from their college in Florida to celebrate.
Stacey and Tamara took in Falynn, their great niece, more than two years ago, after her parents were no longer able to provide a home for her, Tamara said. In spite of the fact that it had been nearly two decades since they last had a toddler inside their household, the mother said she knew from day one that, in the event that Falynn’s biological parents could not take her in again, that she and Stacey would step up and adopt her.
“A permanent, stable household is something we have wanted to give her ever since we took her in,” Tamara said. “She is too little to worry about things like that.”
In spite of the long process it has taken to make the adoption official, Tamara said that she knows that they made the right call to make her part of the family, just by talking with Falynn. “We are not her ‘forever family.’ She calls us her ‘everfamily,’” Tamara said.