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Adoption day celebrates family

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Adoption Day 2017

Attorney Darrel Ammons congratulates the Eyer family after they adopted 4-year-old Caleb on National Adoption Day on Friday.

The Eyer and Wade families Friday each rescued a child from Washington’s foster-care crisis.

As part of National Adoption Day, Russ and GraceAnne Eyer adopted their biological nephew, 4-year-old Caleb, during a ceremony Friday morning at the Cowlitz County Administration Building. He is now part of a family that includes the Eyers’ two adult children and adoptive daughter, Lucy, 6.

“Lucy came to us as foster parents, and … she was my daughter instantly,” Russ Eyer said. “There was no doubt, even before (Caleb) was adopted, that he and Lucy were brother and sister.”

County officials make a special deal of adoptions done on National Adoption Day to help focus attention on the shortage of adoptive families and the many children waiting for their “forever families.”

Statewide there are about 1,700 children who are eligible for adoption, and Superior Court Judge Marilyn Haan said the number of children in foster care is on the rise.

“The foster care system is in crisis,” said Hann, who conducted the adoption proceedings Friday. “We simply don’t have enough homes to take in these very vulnerable kids.”

She said studies have shown that children who age out of foster care at 18-years-old without a permanent family are less likely to graduate high school and are more likely to struggle with homelessness and substance abuse.

“That connection to family is important to the overall health of these kids,” Haan said. “It’s someone to connect with and identify as family.”

Only two kids were adopted at the 12th annual Cowlitz County Adoption Day event, but the reception room bustled with friends and family.

“That’s what’s so great about Adoption Day,” Haan said. “These kids aren’t just getting a mom and a dad, they get a whole family to celebrate with.”

Jared Wade said 2-year-old Bellajoan has lived with him and his wife, Amy, since she was 3 weeks old and he seemed relieved to finalize her adoption. The Wades have adopted twice before, but Wade said the ceremony Friday made the event extra special.

“Third time’s the charm,” he said with a grin.

Families who have adopted in the past are also invited to the festivities to celebrate and support each other.

Melanie Lee Siebert, who adopted two of her sons as part of Adoption Day six years ago, said she returned this year to support the Wades, who are her friends. But she “clapped just as much for the second family.”

She said the celebrations are a chance to show appreciation for foster kids.

“It’s always a joyful day,” Siebert said. “Our children are an awesome gift … and they deserve to be cherished and honored.”

Attorney Darrel Ammons, who has worked in adoptions for more than 25 years, said he enjoys attending Adoption Day every year.

“A lot of the things that lawyers and judges get to do are not so fun,” Ammons said. “This, for the most part, is a happy ending.”

He added that there is a great need for more foster parents.

Judge Haan said there is no template for adoptive parents: They can be older or single or anywhere in between.

“We are here to celebrate the adoptive families who had the courage to open their hearts and homes for children,” she said.

Russ Eyer said he was glad National Adoption Day brought attention to the foster care system for at least one day a year. He and his wife each raised a biological child as single parents before they were married eight years ago. But now they are raising two young children together.

“We both have older kids but we realized that we had more to give,” Eyer said. “We aren’t done being parents yet.”

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