Cass Adoption Day finalizes four familiesPublished 6:40pm Tuesday, November 20, 2012
CASSOPOLIS — Cass County’s 10th annual Adoption Day Tuesday refashioned four families before Family Court Judge Susan Dobrich, who moved the ceremony to Circuit Court because it outgrew her own.
For first-time parents Brandon and Jennifer (Key) Zachary, McKenzie Lynn Zachary, 2, completed the Paw Paw couple July 2.
On the day of her official adoption, McKenzie snatched Tommy Moose and clutched tightly the stuffed animal donated by Dowagiac Moose Lodge 944.
Brandon and Jennifer grew up in Dowagiac and know how important it is to be family, including her sister, Lori, a former Miss Dowagiac.
Anthony and Cristina Caruso, of Bangor, are old hands at child-rearing after foster parenting 21 boys and adopting three sons, all at 9.
Their oldest is now 18, the middle son, 16.
Tuesday they adopted Luke Anthony, 9, who selected his new name from the Bible, told a social worker, “They’re good people and a good fit for me.”
He first arrived in the family two days after Christmas.
Cristina worked as a Van Buren County mental health therapist and wasn’t intimidated by difficult children.
They stuck with boys because they’re an “outdoorsy” family.
“It’s like having a blender on high with the top off,” Anthony said. “It’s too bad more people don’t look at adoption. It’s not for everybody, but adoption should be more than finding a child for a family, it should be finding a family for a child.”
Brian and Amy Bystrom, of Fort Wayne, Ind., added Stella Mae Bystrom, 1, who first came to them in June. Their blended family includes his kids, her kids and their kids — totaling eight — said Brian, an engineer. Ursula Brown, of South Haven, adopted Blessed Journey, a 2-year-old boy.
Cindy Underwood, Department of Human Services director, started with the agency as a Child Protective Services investigator “making hard decisions out in the field.”
“I want everyone to go out in the community and relay the need and the rewards of fostering and adopting so all the children in Cass County can have safe, forever homes.”
With the jury box filled with County Administrator Louis Csokasy and his wife, Donna, and county commissioners, Dobrich paid tribute to Johnie Rodebush, 90, of Niles, who has served since 1969.
Rodebush was seated with Gordon Bickel, Bob Wagel and Roseann Marchetti.
Also present were District Judge Stacey Rentfrow, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Frank Machnik, Assistant Prosecutors Tiffiny Vohwinkle and Melissa Sytsma, CASA Director Jim Ward, Court Administrator Roland Fancher and Carol Bealor, representing the Cass County Bar Association.
“It’s an adversarial system,” the Niles attorney said, “but Family Court tries to make it about the kids. Kids say to me all the time, ‘All I want is a family who loves me.’ ”