12 December 2013
The following reflections of Missouri Chief Justice Mary R. Russell make up her most recent Justice Matters column.
When I practiced law, many people asked me about my favorite kind of case. The answer was easy – adoptions. Part of my job was to make sure a proposed adoption would serve the child’s best interests. I always asked the “parents to be” why they wanted to adopt a particular child, and their answers always brought tears to my eyes: “Because I love her,” or “I always dreamed of having a child like him.”
Adoptions have a special place in Missouri courts. These cases bring joy to many of those involved, the culmination of a process through which children and adults build families for themselves. And for the judges involved in these cases, the opportunity to bring families together through adoptions is just as rewarding.
Some adoptions are private, others are agency placements, and others involve stepparent adoptions. Regardless of the type, state law requires courts to be involved in the adoption process as birth certificates, names, and the legal relationship between the adopting parent and the adoptee all are changed. The new parent assumes financial responsibility for the child, and the child, in the eyes of the law, gains the same rights as any naturally born child of that parent. Each also is able to inherit from the other.
Missouri courts have finalized nearly 2,525 adoptions so far this year, which is a cause for celebration. In fact, trial courts in several Missouri counties last month held special ceremonies for national adoption day. Such events – often involving children leaving the foster care system for “forever” homes – celebrate the joy of new families and the positive experiences of children who found permanent homes through the adoption process.
As we celebrate this holiday season, let us celebrate the role our courts have in the adoption process. Perhaps the greatest gift for a family is a new child, and the greatest gift for a child is a new family. The judges in our state are honored to be a part of bringing families together.