By: Geo A. Ropert, APR
Geo Ropert is the chief communication director at Brevard Family Partnership
Brevard’s Dependency Court Judge, Jeffery Mahl, spends most days hearing cases regarding children who have suffered abuse, neglect and abandonment, and deciding whether the allegations against the parents or caregivers warrant removing the youth from their family and placing them into a foster or group home until the parents can comply with his orders for reunification. Filling his courtroom are child welfare attorneys, case managers, Guardians Ad Litem and court support staff, and of course the family members of children who are the focus of their attention.
When the alleged crimes are most egregious, he is the one who must make the difficult decision to terminate the parents’ rights, permanently disbanding the family and placing the children in the care of the local child welfare system. These children then become available for adoption. Their ages range from a few days old to teen and several are sibling groups, brothers and sisters who, it is hoped, will be adopted by a single family so that they can remain together.
This is where Brevard’s system of care goes into high gear and looks to find families who will open their hearts, adopt the children, and welcome them into a “forever” home.
Since 2005, Brevard Family Partnership, working with its adoption partner IMPOWER, has facilitated 675 public adoptions. These are usually done quietly and methodically, working with the prospective adoptive parents to background screen and prepare them for new additions to the family, and arranging time for both parents and child to get to know each other, ensuring a suitable fit that will last a lifetime.
Each November, our community celebrates National Adoption Month. This is a time to raise awareness of the many children and teens available for adoption. It’s also a time when Judge Mahl opens his courtroom to celebrate new “forever families” who officially become one in a special ceremony that brings smiles and tears of joy, not only to the families but everyone who witnesses the occasion. Where most days the mood is somber in Viera’s Courtroom 4G, on this day balloons and streamers abound, gifts for each boy and girl adopted are wrapped in festive packages, and a catered lunch from Chick-fil-A in Viera is served to the families and everyone in attendance.
The smile is especially bright on Judge Mahl’s face. He has seen the tragedy and the heartbreak that comes from child abuse, so seeing those same children happy and beaming, and their adoptive parents proudly hugging them, fills him with elation. To him there is no better day than when he officially proclaims a forever family has been formed. He welcomes each to his bench for photos and to congratulate them, sharing a few private, encouraging words with both parents and children. And he graciously thanks everyone who has made the adoptions possible, recognizing it takes many people and organizations to make each adoption happen.
If you’ve ever thought about adoption, take a few minutes to learn more about it. Visit BrevardFP.org for photos and bios of the children searching for forever families and information on the adoption process, from initial interest to the day a child becomes part of your family.
Brevard Family Partnership will host the 9th annual Run & Walk for Love 5K to raise awareness of the many children available for adoption who are searching for their “forever home.” All participants receive a commemorative event t-shirt. Runners also receive a goodie bag, timing chip and race bib, and prizes are awarded in several categories. Race timing and management provided by The Running Zone.
Race Fee: By November 21 – adults $25, team members $22, students $22. After: adults $30, team members $30, students $22
Walk: FREE (donations will be accepted to support adoption and post-adoption support programs)
To make a difference in the life of a child who is free for adoption you can also donate now by going to BrevardFP.org
The day will feature interactive displays by community partners and adoption support organizations. Complimentary breakfast provided by Chick-fil-A of Viera.