MUSCATINE — In the presence of their new families, two judges, and rows of Beanie Babies, seven children were officially adopted on Wednesday afternoon in conjunction with National Adoption Day.
The day is a collective effort to raise awareness for the more than 110,000 children in foster care waiting for permanent and loving families. Since its inception, nearly 65,000 children have been adopted through the event. Last year, 4,700 youth were adopted by families as part of the day's celebration.
Judge Nancy Tabor, district court judge of the 7th judicial district, has worked in juvenile court since 1989, first as an assistant county attorney in Clinton County and then as a juvenile court judge.
"I feel really passionate about the fact that we all celebrate Thanksgiving and count our blessings as a family and these children, that's just their dream to have a 'forever family.'" Tabor said. "And some of them it never happens so that's why days like today are so important."
A forever family is just that; a permanent home that a child can join and remain a part of.
"For them it is having a place that is consistently their home," Tabor said. "A place they can always go back to and the same people will be there. A lot of these kids go from foster home to foster home, and they've never had what we call a forever home."
The eldest of the seven placed in homes today was 18-year-old Alexandria Love LaPlant Bishop.
"I'm pretty excited and thankful to just be adopted and finally have a family that accepts me for who I am," Bishop said. "It's been about 2 and half years. It's just positive energy. I'm feeling really happy and ecstatic."
"Obviously, it is one of the nicest things we do," said Judge Gary Strausser. "Helping children find their forever families, it's just a joy to be a part of it. I handle most of the cases involving children here in the county and to see the final day in the process, it's just a really nice feeling."
Strausser said that for several of these cases, he has been with the child since the beginning.
"The goal is to keep the kid safe with their biological family," Strausser said, "but when that is no longer possible, they still need a childhood. They still need parents who are going to take care of them."
According to Tabor, finding that forever home often means more than just a consistent environment to grow up in.
"The other thing you will see is that they don't have stability in education either," Tabor said. "They go from school to school to school and so they are always kind of behind. That impacts our community as well because we don't have kids that our getting the benefits of our education system."
Tabor brings it back to community. By joining these families, towns like Muscatine get a little bigger.
"Not only does it enrich the family and the individual but different persons come into our community. It enriches us," Tabor said. "They bring another perspective. They broaden our world view. I think they enhance our community. Not only are the children blessed by having parents, but the parents in the community that they are exposing these kids to will come back to give back to Muscatine."