Families take many forms and on one special day, love won for 37 children and their adoptive families on Adoption Day in Kent County, Grand Rapids, Michigan. One endearing child, five-year old Michael Clark Jr., was at the adoption hearing to formalize his union with his new family, and was warmly supported by his other chosen family – his whole kindergarten class.
Andrea Melvin and Dave Eaton had been fostering Michael for a year prior to his adoption. They had been married for 10 years and had no children of their own. Their life changed quickly when Michael came into their life.
Dave said, “We were thinking, ‘How can we build our family?’ And there’s so many options, right, for building a family these days.” He added, “We didn’t have any kids prior to that, and things got pretty chaotic in a hurry.”
The parents said that their charismatic son has many friends, and some of the most gratifying times of their first year together has been the number of children “welcoming Michael into their homes and onto play dates.” Michael loves to dance and enjoys sports, including swimming, and playing basketball and soccer.
As the adoption was about to be finalized, Andrea had an interesting discussion with Michael’s teacher, Mrs. McKee, when she dropped off her son at Wealthy Elementary School. His teacher floated the idea of how to make the event even more special for Michael.
As the two agreed on the plan, Mrs. McKee then went ahead and planned a memorable field trip. She organized the whole class outing, procured a school bus, and created a truly special day for Michael and his classmates.
His dad said that Michael would later ask for his kindergarten class to be present at his adoption hearing. According to Dave, “He loves Mrs. McKee. We asked him and he said ‘You know, the class is kind of my family.’ And he wanted them to be there.”
And so on Adoption Day in Kent County, the courtroom of 17th Circuit Court Family Division Judge Patricia Gardner was filled by an unusual group of supporters. She said, “I understand we are joined by Michael’s kindergarten classroom and teacher.” The judge related that it was the first time for her to have a whole kindergarten class in her courtroom.
Sitting with big colorful heart-shaped cutouts mounted on wooden sticks in their hands, Michael’s classmates waved their paper hearts and cheered him on as the process was finalized for Michael to join his new family.
Dave said his favorite part of the adoption hearing was when the judge asked people in the room to share their feelings about Michael. His classmates offered the most touching answers, many of them easily replying “I love Michael.” One child adorably testified, “My name’s Steven and Michael’s my best friend.”
Looking dapper in his bow tie, vest, and checkered shirt, Michael beamed with happiness at the love and support of his families – new parents Andrea and Dave and his kindergarten classmates.
Michael was one of 37 children, all coming from the foster care system, who were welcomed into their forever homes in the county’s 23rd annual Adoption Day. Families, friends, support agencies and organizations, and even Santa Claus, were on hand to celebrate the joyful occasion.
Kent County officials wrote of that amazing day, “There is not a dry eye in Judge Patricia Gardner’s courtroom.” Gardner agreed. “That’s so true. On Adoption Day, there’s so many emotional stories of how children come to families.”
Adoption can be a rewarding experience for many families. Andrea said, “If it’s something that’s crossed your mind, you should consider it and get trained and just see what it’s all about.” With Michael happily exclaiming “I love Mommy!” and “I love Daddy very much!” at his adoption hearing, this family is certainly on the path of a new and happy journey together.
Watch the video feature about this unique adoption hearing that’s making people smile: