Anne Arundel Circuit Judge J. Michael Wachs shakes hands with… (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
In the universe of courtroom decorum, nobody's voice competes with the judge's.
Except on Thursday, when the babbling, whispering and shrieks evoked laughter in a packed Anne Arundel County courtroom, as the court marked its third annual Adoption Day with - what else? - adoptions.
Older children lost the "foster" label, and parents dropped the "temporary" or "waiting" label. Eyes misted over as kids asked the women who officially became "Mom" if they could have more cake. In a room where cameras are usually banned, the judge posed with 10 families. Unlike most court proceedings, everyone left smiling.
"She was the child God intended for us," Fred Tombar said as 10-month-old Chloe, squirming in her daddy's arms, spat out a green pacifier, gurgled and smiled at her mom, Jilla Tombar.
"People said she's so lucky. We say we are so lucky," Jilla Tombar said.
The Fort Washington couple - he's a senior adviser to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and she's a consultant for nonprofits - said they hoped participating in a National Adoption Day event would help shine a light on adoption within the African-American community.
The celebration is among many this week in Maryland courts marking the 10th National Adoption Day. The day was established to draw attention to the need for homes for more than 125,000 children and to celebrate adoptions.
On Saturday, in Baltimore Circuit Court, a record number of children - 56 - will become part of new families at the same time. That morning in Baltimore County Circuit Court, two adoptive parents, one a sitting judge and one a retired judge, will preside over adoptions.
"This is the first year we have been able to meet our adoption goal in a long time," said Elyn Jones, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Resources. DHS placed 770 children in fiscal 2009, which ended June 30.
"It's legal and official now," Jennifer Tayman of Lothian said, wiping away tears, as she looked at Jacqueline, 13, Jessica, 11, and Justin, 6. She, a stay-at-home mother, and her husband, James Tayman, a cable installation supervisor, adopted three siblings who had been living with them as foster children for more than a year.
Jessica pronounced the adoption as "cool," showing her "life book" and the pages where she'll add her new family.
Behind the Tombars, waiting their turn before Judge J. Michael Wachs, sat Mitchell and Dana Miller of Pasadena.
The Millers adopted Kyle, now 5, in a courtroom down the hall four years ago. On Thursday they added his biological sister, 11-month-old Bailey, dressing her in powder-blue ruffles and patent leather Mary Janes.
The Millers had three boys, now ages 20, 18 and 15, when they decided to enlarge their household.
As one of 10 children, Mitchell Miller, a Coast Guard carpenter, always wanted a bigger family.
"I said, 'I'll have more, but they have be delivered by the doorbell,' " said Dana Miller, a reading instructor.
Brandon, 15, said he likes being a big brother, a change from having been the baby.
Then, they thought it would be good for Kyle to have a sibling close to his age. Their musings about adopting a girl became a reality when social workers told them Kyle's mother had given birth to a girl, and the grandmother hoped the children could be together.
"Your heart has the capacity to grow in what you allow it grow," Dana Miller said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Tricia Bishop and Don Markus contributed to this article.