As Lewis County Superior Court Judge James Lawler took his seat and prepared to address a packed courtroom at the Lewis County Law and Justice Center last week, he paused , looked down at his papers and cleared his throat.
Then he stepped down from his seat and walked forward to a desk to address the multitude.
“This week, I’ve had to preside over murder cases, child abuse, drug possessions and a lot else,” Lawler said. “But this morning is a real high point for me as a judge.”
Lawler was referring to Friday morning adoptions at the courthouse. Three families and an exuberant public joined Friday in the normally confidential ceremony, which was opened to people who wished to see it as a celebration of National Adoption Day.
“What we’re doing here today is creating families from a variety of situations,” Lawler said. “Today we get to make things a little less formal and do this together.”
Three families stepped up to the table to formalize a process that had been in the works for months and in one case, three years. The hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m., linked up four children with newly adoptive parents, signaling the start of new lives for each of them. Brian and Sheryl Zylstra of Chehalis were present to make official their adoption of 8-year-old Tizzie, a girl Sheryl had brought to the United States from Ethiopia.
Just down the hall from the Zylstras, 3-year-old Joshua and 2-year-old Ari bounced around while waiting for their adoptive mother, Dawn, to sign the documents. Dawn, who did not want her last name released due to circumstances surrounding the adoption, became a mother for the first time through the legal process and expressed her joy at the two energypacked children legally becoming her kids.
According to the court, around 9,600 children in Washington state live in foster care, with many available for adoption.
The Foster Parents Association of Washington State and Lewis County Foster Parent Association both serve to provide support and a wide range of services through local clothing banks and foster parent training for those wishing to take an active role in the life of a young person who needs a steady hand.