Recently, a five-year-old boy in Grand Rapids, Michigan by the name of Michael Clark, Jr. stood before a courtroom for adoption proceedings. However, he and his foster parents weren’t alone. Michael’s kindergarten class came to the ceremony as well in an unusual but adorable sign of support for their friend.
Making Things Official
Little Michael had been under the care of his foster parents, couple David Eaton and Andrea Melvin, since Thanksgiving 2018. The couple had decided sometime before that they wanted to become foster parents and eventually adopt. It was a long process to get licensed by the state, but David and Andrea remained patient.
In August 2018, they received a call about a little boy who needed an immediate home. The couple took him in and fell in love with the energetic five-year-old Michael, who had been in and out of the foster care system. After more than a year of loving and raising little Michael, David and Andrea knew that they wanted to officially adopt him. Andrea told Michael’s kindergarten teacher, Kerry McKee, about the adoption plans and the teacher quickly thought of a way that the class could support this family.
Creating A Plan
McKee noticed in class that Michael was a bright and inquisitive young student who has the love and respect of his fellow five-year-olds. When she heard that he was about to be adopted, she worked on logistics to get the class to the courthouse that day. Not only would it be a sign of support for Michael and his family, but it would also be a way for her other students to learn more about the adoption process.
A big obstacle was getting 18 kindergartners to a courthouse downtown. The trip had been organized at the last minute which made logistics difficult. But, after hearing the story, many parents offered to come on the trip to help chaperone. The school, however, couldn’t afford a charter bus to drive the class. “I called our bus garage and she said that I hadn’t asked for permission in time. You need two weeks to process a request,” Kerry told Buzzfeed News. “Then the driver there asked what it was for and I told her and she said you can have the bus and I’ll drive for free.”
Once the group was at the courthouse, Kerry and the entire kindergarten class were able to sit in on the adoption proceedings. As Michael sat before the judge, all of his classmates were able to share their own little testimonies about the five-year-old. “Michael is my best friend,” Steven, one of Michael’s classmates, said. “My name is Lily, and I love Michael,” another girl shared.
Michael was beyond thrilled that the class was able to come. “He was really excited they were there,” David told BuzzFeed News. “He views his classmates as his extended family so it was a highlight for him. He was definitely having fun there.”
After the official documents were signed, the kindergartners waved handmade heart signs in the air. Michael was one of 37 children to be adopted during Kent County’s 23rd annual adoption day in Grand Rapids. However, his adoption was even more special with his class to support him. It was an emotional day for many of the adults in the room. It was certainly a first for Judge Patricia Gardner, the presiding judge of the 17th Circuit Court’s family division and founder of the county’s adoption day. “Sometimes their journeys have been very long,” she said in an interview with WZZM about adoptive families. “They’ve included miracle and change for the children and family and incredible community support as you’re able to see today in Michael’s adoption hearing. His whole kindergarten class and school [was] here to say ‘We love you,’ and ‘We support you’ and ‘We’ll be here not only today but in all the years in the future,’” she continued.
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