National Adoption Day celebrated at the Bonneville County courthouse

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IDAHO FALLS — Bonneville County judges, court officials and Idaho legislative representatives gathered with families on Friday to celebrate those who foster children and those who have gone through the process of adoption.

Booths were set up in the hallway of the Bonneville County courthouse full of treats, teddy bears and toys for children. Information on the process of becoming a foster family or adopting a child of your own was available.

Many speakers were present to talk to the audience about adoption, foster care and what it means to build a family.

The first speaker was District Judge Dane Watkins Jr., who told the crowd that he was happy to see smiling faces in the courtroom.

“Things that take us into these courtrooms are often things that don’t bring joy or happiness or smiles,” Watkins said. “And just walking in to this courtroom today and seeing the displays that are outside and the things that are inside this courtroom bring smiles to all of our faces, and I can see that among all of you. It is a real delight.”

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District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. speaking on National Adoption Day. | Kaitlyn Hart, EastIdahoNews.com

Watkins read a proclamation issued by Idaho Chief Justice Richard Beven of the Idaho Supreme Court, which honors everyone who assists with providing children with permanent adoptive homes.

“The Idaho State Judiciary recognizes the positive impact of a safe home and loving family in a child’s life,” Watkins said. “By virtue of the authority vested in me, I do hereby honor, recognize, and thank all those individuals who give up their time, resources and efforts, in supporting children with a loving and permanent home.”

The next speaker was Katherine Hitch, a representative from Sen. Mike Crapo’s office, who read a letter signed by both Crapo, and Sen. Jim Risch.

“In an ideal world, no child would want for a loving home and parents who support them. But as we all know, life is far more complicated,” Hitch said. “Adoption is a way of re-writing an unideal set of circumstances and providing children and families opportunities to thrive.”

Camille Rigby from Fostering Idaho, next told the crowd about common misconceptions dealing with foster care and adoption.

Rigby explained that you don’t have to own a home, have a certain income amount, be in a relationship, be a straight couple, or have a certain amount of bedrooms in your home to be a foster parent.

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A booth set up by Fostering Idaho on National Adoption Day. | Kaitlyn Hart, EastIdahoNews.com

“We need more foster parents,” Rigby said. “We currently have 1,200 foster families in the state of Idaho, and we have more than 1,500 kids in foster care. In some areas, we have some kids that are waiting in short-term rentals with their case workers before they can go into a foster home.”

The next speaker was Stacy McAlevy with Judicial District 7’s CASA Program.

McAlevy spoke about the importance of advocating for children in the foster care system, and what the public can do to support foster children.

“Last year, in our judicial district, we served 521 kids. Of those 521 kids, 46 were adopted and found permanency in safe, loving homes,” McAlevy said. “I encourage and I appreciate our foster families, without the foster families, our kids are staying in Airbnbs, they’re staying in group-homes.”

Magistrate Judge Wiley Dennert stepped up to the podium next, to talk about his own experience with adoption in the legal system.

“Adoptions are bittersweet. They’re bitter in that there’s always some reason why you’re there terminating parental rights, and whatever that reason is, there’s some kind of backstory that is often bitter,” said Dennert. “But the sweet side of adoption is that we’re trying to build families, and give these children stability and additional love.”

Jacque Burt from The Village, a foster care organization in eastern Idaho, told the story of her first experience in adoption when she adopted her son 27 years ago.

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A booth set up by The Village on National Adoption Day. | Kaitlyn Hart, EastIdahoNews.com

Burt was living in Florida with her husband while he was stationed in Orlando, when her doctor told her that after having two kids, she couldn’t give birth to anymore children due to health issues.

“We just naturally went right on to thinking, we’ll adopt,” Burt said.

As they were waiting in the lobby to interview to be potential parents to a newborn baby, they caught a glimpse of the infant in a woman’s arms down the hallway.

“You know that feeling when you’re cold, and you get in the shower and the hot water comes on? I had a sensation ten fold that,” said Burt. “I knew that second, I knew, that was my child.”

The last speaker, and also the entertainment, was Idaho Rep. Marco Erickson, who spoke about his experience not fitting in as a child, and then sang an original song he wrote to commemorate the occasion.

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Rep. Marco Erickson after performing an original song at National Adoption Day. | Kaitlyn Hart, EastIdahoNews.com

“When I was a kid, I grew up in one of those really rough families,” said Erickson, through tears. “I’ve spent a lot of years working with families that were extremely broken, and I got to witness these kids who ended up in the system in different ways and for different reasons.”

Erickson told the crowd that he wrote the song recently after being asked to speak at the event, and after being inspired by the stories he’s learned throughout his years working with children in the foster system.

“I wrote this song from the perspective of a child,” said Erickson. “A child who goes through the system and experiences these things.”

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