Cass County celebrates area family during 19th annual Adoption Day

Published 11:25 am Wednesday, November 24, 2021

CASSOPOLIS — There were few dry eyes in one Cass County courtroom as a local family officially added a member to their home.

Tuesday, Cass County celebrated its 19th annual Adoption Day by finalizing the adoption of one area family. Hosted at courts state-wide, Adoption Day allows participating courts to finalize adoptions, host parties for adoptive families and educate the public about the adoption process. Michigan Adoption Day is co-sponsored by the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange and the Child Welfare Services Division of the State Court Administrative Office.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Cass County opted to forgo its usual celebration and instead invited select members of the community to view the day’s sole adoption via Zoom.

“We are here for something very special, and that is to finalize an adoption,” said Cass County Judge Susan Dobrich.

During Cass County’s Adoption Day, Robin Van Valkenburg finalized the adoption of Carter, 5.

“It feels great,” Valkenburg said. “We are really happy to have this all finalized.”

Valkenburg met Carter when he was in the hospital for treatment of a brain injury he sustained when he was 2 years old, and he came into her care not long after. Though Carter still feels the effects of his injury, Valkenburg called Carter a “superhero,” who improves every day. In recognition of that, and due to Carter’s love of superheroes like Wonder Woman and the Flash, Valkenburg and her family dressed up as familiar superheroes to visit the courts Tuesday.

“It’s just a miracle,” Valkenburg said. “He is a remarkable young person, and he just gets better all the time. … His joy and love for life is contagious.”

Initially, Valkenburg said she was not planning on adoption, but her family fell in love with Carter — and vice versa.

“Adoption is a lot of things — it is joyful and happy, but it is also sad that he lost his birth family,” Valkenburg said. “We acknowledge that it is unfortunate that his story came to this, but we are grateful to have him in our family and grateful that he can know his birth family loves him as well.”

Going forward, Valkenburg said her family’s plans for the future are simple.

“We are really looking forward to getting on with the rest of our lives,” she said.