Focus on Adoption

Families in the making: 770 adoptions in Maryland last year

Maryland’s courts helped dozens of children become members of permanent families during statewide celebrations of National Adoption Day in November. The official day was Saturday, Nov. 21, but events were held throughout the week.

This excerpt from an article in St. Mary’s County’s The Enterprise newspaper on Nov. 20, 2009, shows why judges say that adoptions provide some of the courts’ most joyful moments.

By reporter Jesse Yeatman and reprinted by permission of The Enterprise.

Tara and Ken Sutherland of Great Mills had their wish come true Tuesday morning as the adoption of Damian, 2, was finalized.

"We wouldn't trade him for anything in the world. He means everything to me," Tara said.

The coupled has fostered six other children over the last few years, all of whom were reunited with their biological parents. Ken Sutherland just retired from 22 years in the Navy, and as they both approach age 40, Tara Sutherland said, they felt adoption was the right thing to do to complete their family.

Tuesday morning was adoption day at the St. Mary's County courthouse as lawyers and Circuit Judge Karen Abrams peppered the Sutherlands and three other adoptive families with questions about relationships, houses, health and financial situations.

Joanne Sobola of California and her
newly adopted son, John Jared Sobola, 3,
second from right, have photos taken
with his newly adopted family, including sisters,
Sidney, 8, left, and Shamaia, 11,
outside a courtroom at the St. Mary’s County Courthouse.

The parents, and sometimes the children, were brought to tears as they tried to put their love into words.

"He's like my shadow. Everywhere I go he's right there with me," Ken Sutherland said of Damian.

Derek McClure and Kelly Hewitt of Lexington Park provided foster care for Jamari since he was 11 months old. Now 3, Jamari entered the courtroom with his dads Tuesday morning to make his family official.

"He's part of our God-created family. We love him just like he was our own child," McClure said.

In the courtroom a strong showing of family and friends, some as from as far away as North Carolina, gave their support to the couple.

"As a couple, we've always wanted children," McClure said. The two have been domestic partners for more than a decade.

Pam Curtis has five boys of her own but has also provided care for two sisters, Zodie, 10, and Markia, 12, who are relatives. The girls said that they are happy to be with their adoptive mother but also happy to stay together.

Kelly Hewitt of Lexington Park holds
his son, Jamari, 3, in St. Mary’s County Circuit Court
during an adoption ceremony as he and his partner,
Derek McClure, await a ruling from
Circuit Judge Karen Abrams.
Four other children were also officially
adopted that morning.

photos by Reid Silverman
reprinted by permission of The Enterprise

For Joanne and John Sobola of California, adopting John Jared, 3, was special. They had cared for the boy since he was an infant and have two other adoptive children and others in foster care.

Joanne Sobola offered encouragement to anyone considering fostering or adopting a child: "It's the best. Your world will never be the same."

The state set the bar high this year for St. Mary's County social workers—they aim to have 21 adoptions completed this fiscal year, which ends June 30. There were 770 adoptions finalized statewide last year.

Maryland's Circuit Courts

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court held its third annual National Adoption Day on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 9 a.m., in the courthouse, when adoptions were finalized for 11 children ranging in age from less than one-year-old to 18. Judge Michael E. Loney presided.

In the Baltimore City Circuit Court, a record number of children—56—became members of their new families at the same time on Saturday, Nov. 21. Baltimore Circuit Court Administrative Judge Marcella A. Holland, Judge Audrey J.S. Carrion, and Judge Edward R.K. Hargadon presided over the adoptions in the Ceremonial Courtroom in the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse.

At the Baltimore County Circuit Court, the presiding judges, retired Judge John O. Hennegan and Judge Sherrie R. Bailey, are themselves adoptive parents. They finalized almost a dozen adoptions in the Old Courthouse Ceremonial Courtroom.

Montgomery County Circuit Court celebrated National Adoption Day on Friday, Nov. 20, in the Ceremonial Courtroom. Seven members of the Montgomery County bench—Judge Cindy Callahan, Judge Richard Jordan, Judge Marybeth McCormick, Judge Terrance McGann, Judge Katherine Savage, Judge Louise Scrivener, and retired Judge Ann Sundt—took part.

Prince George’s County Circuit Court helped adoptive parents welcome 14 children into their families during its National Adoption Day event on Thursday, Nov. 19, in the Prince George’s County Court House. Judges Larnzell Martin, Jr.; and Melanie Shaw Geter assisted Judge William D. Missouri, circuit and county administrative judge for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Prince
George’s County.

St. Mary’s County Circuit Court celebrated six adoptions on Tuesday, Nov. 17, a number that represents more than a quarter of the county’s goal for adoptions for the year. Judge Karen H. Abrams presided in St. Mary’s County Circuit Court.