To 3-year-old Jasmine Mitchell, it seemed like a birthday party.
To Jasmine’s parents, Craig and Jennifer Mitchell, it was better. On Monday, the Mitchells were adopting Jasmine, the little girl, whom they had raised since she was an infant, and who is actually Craig Mitchell’s biological granddaughter.
And it was a day to celebrate.
“I never doubted that we wouldn’t have her,” Jennifer Mitchell said when the proceedings had concluded. “We’re the only mom and dad she’s ever known. But for it to be final, for her to actually be our child is — I don’t have a word for it — exciting, well more than that.”
Jasmine was one of eight children and four families participating in Brown County’s First Adoption Day on Monday. The event, held in conjunction with National Adoption Day, was held at Adams Street Community Center, and, like a party, there was cake, balloons and some small gifts.
But the “better than that,” the adoptive parents said was the final legal action making the children they had come to love, and most had had in their care since they were infants, their own legally adopted children.
“Of all the days, of all the trials and all the court cases, this may be the happiest day we’ve ever had,” said Judge Rob Hofmann, who presided over the adoptions, and is the child protection court justice for the 35th District Court.
Of some consideration for the families involved in the Brown County Adoption Day “first” was that the court costs of the adoptions had been underwritten by the Brown County Welfare Board, Brown County Bar Association and the Pecan Valley Kiwanis Club, and there were no legal fees charged to the families.
But in most cases, the money was secondary. The full-legal rights afforded to the newly bound families was of the most import.
Jackie James and Glenda Swindall adopted 17-month-old Chance Lane Swindall, their biological grandchild. The family includes Chance’s four older brothers, Nick, 12; Brandon, 10; Walker, 8; and Dillon, 6.
Dayton and Robin Leach adopted three children, Joe Lyne Leach, 7; Crystal Lynette Leach, 6; and Kyna Dawn Leach, 2. The three have the same biological mother and have been in the Leach’s family since each was a baby.
“We love children and love is what’s needed. It’s what children want and deserve,” said Robin Leach. “Our family has these three children we’ve just adopted, our two biological children, who are grown and out of the house now, and five foster children. We may give love to the children, but the completeness they add to our family — we get back so much more.”
“We’re going to keep going,” Dayton Leach said. “We have a lot of love. Our children are happy.”
He said the biological mother of the three in their care had a newborn brother. “We’d love him too, but we don’t know if that can happen.”
In the fourth case, Robert and Mary Wilder adopted their three grandsons, Jacob, Christian and Patrick.
“You understand there’s a no-return policy on these children,” said Shane Britton, Brown County attorney, as he and the family stood before Hofmann.
“We understand,” Mary Wilder replied.
“When they’re teenagers with bad attitudes, they’re still yours,” Britton said. “You can’t send them back.”
“We know,” Mary Wilder said. “They’re ours.”
At the start of the proceedings, Hofmann said the day’s planned events reminded him happily of a Shakespearean quote his grandmother often repeated.
“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world,” Hofmann then recited.
“Years and months and decades down the road, the good that happens here today will be casting a light into the darkness,” he said.
Then, hearing the happy chatter of the soon-to-be-adopted Kyna Leach, Hofmann said, “The sounds of children are a great sound in this court. We’re glad to hear it today.”