It was baby bedlam in Spokane County Superior Court, where judges presided over a record number of adoption proceedings on Friday, National Adoption Day.
“I usually spend my day putting people in jail,” said Judge Ellen Kalama Clark, “and they are not happy, and they are not smiling and they don’t have balloons.”
Friday was a pleasant change of pace.
Clark could barely stifle a grin as she presided over the adoption of 20-month-old triplets by parents Dan DeBoise, 45, of Spokane, a nursing director at Riverview Retirement Community, and his wife, Neilene, a 43-year-old homemaker.
The couple have four biological children: Arley-Ann, 20; Jacob, 17; Nina, 14; and Evan, 7. Add to that triplets Isaiah, Chloe and Erik and the family has as many kids as there are days of the week, but not nearly enough hours in the day.
Family and friends helped fill the courtroom as the DeBoises promised the judge to care for the triplets, who Dan DeBoise said are the children of a distant relative.
“We just found out that they were in foster care, so my wife called and two weeks later, they were in my home.”
DeBoise said he couldn’t be happier about “keeping them in the family and keeping them together.”
Meanwhile, in the jury lounge at the Spokane County Courthouse, friends and relatives of other adoptive families mingled, ate cake and drank juice and coffee as children ran amok and congratulations were passed all around.
In all, 15 children were adopted on Friday in 11 proceedings, “the most that have ever been done in one day in Spokane,” according to attorney Mark Iverson, who orchestrated each adoption, one every half hour.
Across the state, more than 110 foster children joined new families on Friday in similar celebrations.
It was the third year Spokane has participated in National Adoption Day, said Court Commissioner Steven Grovdahl. Some judges set aside their calendars to do adoptions that day, he said.
Nationwide, the number of children in foster care has nearly doubled since 1987, and the average time a child spends in foster care has increased to nearly three years.
Each year, about 20,000 children “age out” of the foster care system without ever finding a permanent family.
Grovdahl said when he first became a court commissioner nine years ago, his caseload was 80 to 85 dependency cases. Now it’s 150.
“Without adoptive parents, we don’t have the resources to absorb kids that need parents,” he said.