DAVENPORT, Iowa — The Scott County District Court held its annual National Adoption Day adoption ceremonies on Saturday, Nov. 6. The court oversaw over a dozen formal adoptions of children from both the foster care system and from international adoptions.
"People often ask me when they find out what I do, what's the funnest part of my job, and it's easy: to preside over adoptions," said 7th District Court Judge Mark Fowler. "The adoptions are just simply awesome. In my mind, if you are adopting someone today, you qualify as a superhero."
A total of 14 kids were formally adopted Saturday morning, with large crowds of extended family and friends coming to watch the proceedings. Fowler said this was the largest group they've ever had.
Members of the local police and fire departments, as well as the Scott and Muscatine County Sheriffs' departments, lined the hallways cheering the families on as they walked to the courtroom. There were even volunteers dressed in inflatable dinosaur and unicorn costumes for the kids, and an adopted celebrity, Superman, made an appearance too.
Fowler emphasized the importance of National Adoption Day.
"National Adoption Day is an opportunity to celebrate adoptions and to raise awareness of those children still waiting in foster care for that day when they finally get placed with their forever family," he said. "We have a need for quality people to be foster parents, and a need for quality people to be adoptive parents."
The Gilpin family has been foster parents for over eight years and have adopted once before. First their daughter, who was their first foster placement, and on Saturday, they added another son to the family.
"We've been doing foster care for lots of children who have gone home to their parents, which is really the goal of foster care, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way," Christina Gilpin said. "We just saw a need. We knew some other families who had been foster parents, and we saw the journey that they went through, and we wanted to be a part of the help in this system to provide kind of a safe place for kids to land."
Her young son has been living with them for two years now, and she said when they were given the opportunity to adopt him, their answer was "yes, of course." Everyone in the immediate Gilpin family, mom, dad, sister and two older brothers were dressed in shirts decorated with a sloth and the words "worth the wait for family ever after."
"This is a slow process. It's been kind of a long time, but we're excited to be here now," she said. "A little relief that we're at this point and I know that he gets to stay with us forever. He's been like part of our family, and so our other children really love and adore him as well."
Chief District Court Judge Marlita Greve has presided over adoption cases for several years and shared her own adoption story at this year's ceremony.
"We had our name on several adoption lists because we wanted a family and I couldn't have kids. And one day in May of 1985, we got that phone call that every parent wants to get, 'We have a child for you,'" Greve said. "The final adoption hearing was exciting and special, but it really was just a formality. Rachel became our daughter in our hearts long before she became our daughter legally. And I know the same is true for all of you here today. These children have been your children, and they'll get finalized, legally, today as your child. Having the adoption finalized legally is an important step, because then you can say to the world, this is our daughter, this is my son."
"I urge all citizens to join in the national effort to raise awareness about the importance of adoption," said Davenport Mayor Mike Matson, reading a proclamation from the Davenport City Council. "But as a person, I'm always honored and humbled to be here because I'm an adopted child myself. So in this city, in 1963, that's what happened to me, and I'm so proud and my family and parents are wonderful and it's so cool to see the coming together of wonderful children and families again today."
According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there are approximately 420,000 children in foster care in the U.S. Since 2018, the Scott County District Court has overseen over 300 adoptions.