During Hillsdale’s first Adoption Day, seven children found new homes and “forever families.” Judge Michelle Bianchi presided over the event, reading reference letters vouching for the adoptive families, reading observations made by caseworkers, and allowing people to make statements about the adoptive families.

Local families adopting children on Nov. 28 pose with Judge Michelle Bianchi.
Jacquelyn Eubanks | Collegian

Local families gathered in the Hillsdale County Courthouse to finalize adoptions on Nov. 28. A reception was held afterward at Perennial Park Senior Center to celebrate the newly formed families.

When the children’s legal names were changed and the orders of adoption were signed, the courtroom erupted with applause.

“It was very cool that we could do our adoption today,” said Hillsdale resident Michelle Michael, who adopted her ninth child — six of whom were also legally adopted.

This is not just a local event. According to Bianchi, November is nationally recognized as Adoption Month, and Adoption Day in Hillsdale was one of many adoption days across the country.

“It’s important to raise awareness for the needs for foster homes, foster families, and forever homes,” she said. “Hopefully this will bring awareness to this need, and some in foster care will receive permanent families.”

There are currently 13,000 children in foster care in the state of Michigan, and only 1,900 were adopted this school year, said Megan Stiverson, a juvenile court administrator and expert on child abuse and neglect.

“Adoption Day makes an event that started off tragic into something joyful,” Stiverson said.

Bianchi said there are more than 140 kids in foster care in Hillsdale County alone.

“Many will go home to parents, but when it can’t happen, we need good families to step up,” she said.

To become a foster parent, one must become a licensed foster care provider through the court system.

Of the adoptions that took place, five of the seven children went to unrelated foster care families. The other two were adopted by a stepparent and a relative.

“There is a great need for families to come forward and adopt,” said Jacque Marry, a caseworker for Fostering Solutions, an adoption agency in Adrian. She witnessed her 100th adoption on Tuesday.

Bianchi said she is looking forward to making Adoption Day an annual event.

“I’m overjoyed by the tremendous outcome,” Bianchi said.