‘Someone to hold them up’
The snowy, icy weather outside the Allen County Courthouse on Thursday was in stark contrast to the warmth of feelings inside the building.
As a wintry mix coated sidewalks with ice and slush, dozens of individuals entered second-floor courtrooms to emerge minutes later as families. It was the 12th time Allen Superior Court has participated in National Adoption Day, an annual celebration to raise awareness of children in foster care waiting for permanent homes.
Nearly 70,000 children have been adopted across the U.S. since the event was created in 2000, and more than 400 cities take part each year, according to the National Adoption Day website. In Allen County, more than 400 children have been adopted over more than a decade.
Forty adoptions took place at the courthouse on Thursday.
“Many of the cases today are the result of a lot of hard work,” said Judge Charles Pratt, who presided over many of the adoption hearings and spearheaded Indiana’s first Adoption Day event in Allen county in 2007.
“It’s really great to see the smiles on these kids’ faces,” he said.
Some of those smiles belonged to Tara, 13, Sakari, 12, Adam, 11, and Savannah, 9. Each was adopted by John Heare, their great uncle.
Heare, 49, who lives in Continental, Ohio, has been caring for the children since last year, when the Indiana Department of Child Services removed each from their parents’ home. A former foster child himself, Heare said he wanted to provide a stable home for his new family.
“That’s all they need : someone to hold them up,” he said. “So many more people need to do this, because it’s opened up something in me.”
Seconds after Pratt finalized the adoptions, Ken Heare : John’s brother : adopted Darold, 16, a sibling to the other four children. Ken Heare has been taking care of Darold “off-and-on” since 2015.
“Just finalizing it, it kind of dots the I’s and crosses the T’s,” he said.
Andy Goeglein, an attorney who handled each of the Heare adoptions, said it’s rare for so many children to be adopted by one person at once. It’s rarer to find adoptive parents as dedicated as John and Ken Heare, he said.
“I’ve been doing this for several years, and these are really some quality guys that have stepped up,” Goeglein said.
Tara, who took her adopted father’s last name along with her siblings, called the experience “an emotional roller coaster.”
″(But) it all just came together,” she said.