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‘A good day at the court’

Kathleen Rusher, assistant chief of the Children in Need of Services Division for Allen Superior Court, has plenty of tough days in court, where the abuse and neglect cases that demand most of her time reveal heartbreaking situations.

Friday, however, was not one of those days.

With the permission of the Indiana Supreme Court, Judge Charles Pratt opened up his courtroom to allow a public glimpse of the joyous side of family court, with more than two dozen families completing adoptions on National Adoption Day.

Adoption proceedings generally take place on Fridays at the Allen County Courthouse. But last week’s cases primarily involved children adopted from foster care as part of an effort to publicize the need for more participation.

Carrie and Matthew Reilly, with four children of their own, first became foster parents in 2006. They’ve had about 25 foster children in the past six years.

Earlier, they adopted two of the children, and on Friday siblings Evelyn, Luke and Keira joined the family. Evelyn will be 4 in February, Luke turned 3 on Saturday and Keira is 2.

“You have to go into (foster parenting) knowing they can go back to their homes,” Carrie Reilly said. “It’s hard, because you want them to stay.”

The Reillys’ toddlers, dressed in Sunday best, were wide-eyed as Pratt ran through the legal proceedings. They smiled and squirmed as the extended family posed for a photo with the judge afterward.

“It’s a good day at the court,” said Rusher, looking around at families waiting in the ornate rotunda outside the courtroom. “It’s the converse of what we see every other day with abuse and neglect. Here are people loving their kids and giving them good things.”

Julia McIntosh, a volunteer coordinator for the Court-Appointed Special Advocate program, said she was pleased to see the foster program highlighted.

“A lot of kids in Allen County need adopting,” she said. “Everybody wants a baby, but there are so many children who need a home.”

She said it was rewarding to see the adoptions celebrated.

“You’re thinking back to everything that led up to this and knowing that these kids are going to grow up to be great, productive people,” she said.

Foster parent requirements

In Indiana, foster parents must be licensed by the Department of Child Services. They must:
•Be at least 21.
•Pass a criminal history and background check.
•Demonstrate financial stability.
•Own or rent a home that meets physical safety standards.
•Submit medical statements from a physician for all household members.
•Successfully complete pre-service training requirements.
•Successfully complete first aid, CPR and universal precautions training.
•Submit personal reference statements.
•Participate in home visits from the regional licensing specialist.
•Complete foster family assessments and all required forms.

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