Justice Matters: Through adoptions, Missouri courts give the gift of families
12 December 2013
The following reflections of Missouri Chief Justice Mary R. Russell make up her most recent Justice
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.