A happy ending for two families

ALPENA – Emotions ran high when two new families were joined officially Tuesday as part of Alpena County’s celebration of National Adoption Day.

Adopting parents wiped tears of joy from their eyes as children beamed shortly after Probate Judge Tom LaCross gave the final approval for their adoptions. Two older sisters hugged each other tightly as their new parents beamed. All four were being adopted by their foster parents, and it’s the kind of happy ending LaCross would like more foster children to have.

“I think that, of all the things I do as a judge and as an attorney, there’s no other hearing and no other process that is better than certifying an adoption,” he said afterward.

John Keller, Department of Human Services for Alpena, Alcona and Montmorency counties executive director, said the day is like Christmas for him. He looks forward to it every year and believes it reaffirms his office’s commitment to protecting vulnerable children in the three counties.

“It’s the reason why we do what we do, to see that children are safe and sheltered with forever families,” he said.

The day finished with a reception at the Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Services District building, where a small gathering dined and heard more about adopting. LaCross certifies many adoptions in his court throughout the year and are nearly all private affairs, but on Adoption Day families who agree to it let the public know their stories. Alpena County is one of 30 across the state to celebrate children finding new, loving families in this way.

First up were Lori and John Kremsreiter, who adopted their two grandchildren, Jaylah and Kingston. The two took the steps they needed to become foster parents, including lots of renovations to their house, so they could care for the siblings, Lori said. She and John had lots of help from their church, family and friends. Lori and John originally hadn’t intended to adopt the two, but after a year they realized the children needed the stability of a new, permanent home.

“Our intention was to keep them safe until they could reunite with their parents, but over the course of a year that didn’t happen,” she said.

Jaylah and Kingston were taken briefly to the foster care system, and for a while Lori and John didn’t know where they were, she said. Now, the new “nana and poppa” can breathe easy. Jaylah, 8, and Kingston, 5, each got gifts to celebrate the occasion, and both said they were happy to have a new family.

After the Kremsreiters, LaCross certified Dale and Joy Fiorello’s adoption of Danni and Bethany. The two 17-year-old sisters were overjoyed as they hugged their new parents and their friends from Holy Cross Children’s Services.

Shannon Dolan, Danni and Bethany’s foster care worker with Holy Cross, said she was happy to see two girls who have been through so much find new homes. The two were placed with the Fiorellos and, two months later, the two decided to adopt the girls.

“It just completes my life,” Joy said. “It’s been a long road, but it was a match from the get-go.”

The Fiorellos have been foster parents for more than 20 years, they said, and have some experience with teenage girls. Now, they’re the first family Danni and Bethany really had.

“They actually cared,” Danni said. “They put a lot of time into helping us with what we need.”

At the open house, Doree Kent of Catholic Human Services talked about the open adoptions the organization facilitates. She helps train prospective parents who will adopt children from families or single mothers in dire straits, rather than those who have lost their parental rights. Unlike other types of adoptions, children are told about their biological parents, who in turn receive regular updates on their children.

“Many birth parents would rather have some connection over the life of their child,” she said, adding many adopted children also want to know about their original family.

Child and Family Services of Northeast Michigan Inc. Executive Director Cynthia Kieliszewski said her organization is getting back into working with children in foster care, and has a strong adoption department. The organization licenses foster care homes and works to help children in the system.

April Watson, Child and Family Services of Northeast Michigan adoption specialist, said she thinks it’s important to raise the public’s awareness about adoption. Many think about it and consider whether they can help.

“This is raising awareness that there is a great need,” she said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.