Judge Finalizes Adoption to Celebrate Adoption Month

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Lorin Hancock: (216) 881-4574, Lorin.Hancock@jfs.ohio.gov 

CLEVELAND -- Today Judge Laura Gallagher finalized James and Donna Heuler’s adoption of 17-year-old Brooke at the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) headquarters. The finalization is part of the County’s celebration of National Adoption Month.

“Finalizations, usually held inside a court room, are the last official step in the adoption process,” explained DCFS Director Cynthia Weiskittel. “We’re hosting this finalization at our headquarters to provide some insight into the process, and also to recognize and celebrate all the hard work that goes into finding forever families for children in our custody.”

Brooke’s adoption is the culmination of a four-year journey for the Heulers, who started out as Brooke’s foster parents. “It was an unbelievable experience,” said Donna Heuler, Brooke’s adoptive mother. “I’m glad I was a foster parent; I’m glad I was a respite parent; and I’m glad I’m now an adoptive parent.”

Heuler says she wanted to participate in DCFS’ special finalization event to show others what happens in court. “I think my role now is to help the parents who are going through this, or who are thinking about going through this. The process can be scary the first time you do it.”

“Uniting families under the law is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work,” said Judge Laura Gallagher, who presided over the finalization. “For so many people, this is the end of a long process, often one that’s full of pain, grief, and trauma. But it’s also the beginning of a new life for a child and a family, bonded by law just as strongly as if they were blood-related.”

The event also recognized the efforts of several DCFS staff who have gone above and beyond to find forever families for children in county custody.

Cuyahoga County has more than 200 children available for adoption. Available children range in age from 0-17 and come from a variety of backgrounds. Many have siblings also up for adoption, and several children have special needs. To date, 105 children have been adopted in Cuyahoga County this year.

Residents interested in adoption or foster care can visit www.everychildneedsfamily.com to see adoptable children and learn more about the process. Both foster and adoptive parents must go through training and submit to a home study.

Heuler’s advice for anyone considering fostering or adoption includes making sure you have an adequate support system in place: “You don’t have to be super strong yourself; you just have to have an army behind you.”