A record-breaking 41 children were adopted into their forever homes during Baylor Law School's Adoption Day Nov. 18.
The Law School's annual event encourages adoption as a way to give children permanent families, to celebrate the joys of adoption and to bring attention to foster children in the United States waiting for a family.
"The joy that we witness in the children and the adoptive parents is beautiful to behold. Adoption Day is a day about happiness and hope and new beginnings," said Bridget Fuselier, professor of law and founder of the Adoption Day program. "All of the children adopted were removed from their homes and have been in the foster care system. Parental rights of the biological parents are terminated and now a family wants to make them part of their home permanently. It's about making forever families."
In a series of emotional ceremonies, foster children and their soon-to-be parents stood in front of a judge and raised their right hands as they were sworn into their new families. After all the legal statements --including those of the children affirming their desire to join the family and the parents promising to provide a loving home--the judge signed 41 decrees of adoption and other final documents. For the participating families, the moment marked the end of months--sometimes years--long processes to finally be legally recognized as a family.
The Adoptions: Finding Families theme of the 2016 event, the ninth Adoption Day held by Baylor Law, was inspired by the children's movie Finding Dory. In the animated movie, Dory sets off on a quest to find her long-lost family. Baylor Law School students helped transform the first floor of the Umphrey Law Center into a sea-themed family celebration. Faculty and students greeted families, entertained children and held Finding Dory-inspired games and activities dressed as characters from the popular film.
"The law students tell me it is their favorite day of the year," Fuselier said. "They are excited to do something special for the families and they look forward to actually watching the adoption hearings. I think it gives them a close-up look at the impact we truly have as lawyers. Lawyers are an integral part of the process and they help the people involved reach the ultimate goal of adoption."
Nearly 60 Baylor Law School students volunteered their time for Adoption Day.
"When students get to participate in Adoption Day, they get to see the law and what attorneys can do for people to better their lives," said Gracie Wood, law student and event organizer. "I think it helps motivate the students because they see something tangible to strive for--helping others."
Baylor Law School holds the event in collaboration with the Baylor Law Public Interest Legal Society, the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association, and the McLennan County office of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
"Adoption Day is a core component of Baylor Law's commitment to creating a culture of service," said Stephen Rispoli, assistant dean of student relations and pro bono programs. "It allows our students to experience the joy of bringing families together. We hope that the experience will inspire students to give their time to programs like this once they are licensed lawyers."