From the Hamilton Journal News (Butler County, Ohio -- Spring 2002)
Judge enjoys finalizing adoptions
By Mary Lolli
Butler County Probate Judge Randy Rogers stood in his office and raised his arms in a sweeping gesture.
"Their hearts are bigger than this room," Rogers said. "Those are the kind of people who come to my courtroom seeking to adopt children."
Adoptions, Rogers says, are the best part of his job.
"When people in adoption cases leave my courtroom, a family is made. That gives me a feeling that is just incredibly hard describe."
In the seven years since Rogers began presiding over adoptions in Butler County, he has watched about 1,200 new families walk out of his courtroom.
Each case offers its unique set of circumstances, from grandparents adopting grandchildren, to couples adopting foreign children, to private adoptions arranged through attorneys, and so on.
But the common denominator for the parties involved is that they want to be together as a family.
When Rogers talks about adoptions, he doesn’t care to get bogged down in legal terminology and procedural issues. He prefers to share stories about some of the more memorable moments in his courtroom.
One such case, which Rogers says is his most memorable, involved a 4-year-old girl. The girl had been born 10 weeks premature. She weighed less than 2 pounds and had a host of medical problems which kept her hospitalized for the first 14 months of her life.
Because the baby’s biological mother had continuing drug abuse problems, Children Services officials placed the baby with foster parents.
"When the foster parents took this little girl home from the hospital she had a tracheotomy and was on a ventilator," Rogers said. "But they gave her so much love and so much care and attention, and when they came into my courtroom a few years later for an adoption hearing, that little girl who was so ill and had so many problems at birth, literally danced in the courtroom."
"It was really something to witness," Rogers said.
In a more recent case, involving a private adoption, Rogers again found himself profoundly moved by the attitude of the prospective adoptive parents.
The adoption procedure was begun prior to the baby’s birth. But when the baby was born medical complications created the possibility that brain damage might show itself later.
So Rogers asked the prospective parents if they still wanted to go through with the adoption.
"I wanted to make sure they were aware of what might lie ahead in terms of the care for this child," Rogers said. "I asked them if they were aware that there was a possibility that there could come a time when they would not be able to care for the child in their home."
To Rogers’ delight the prospective mother said that if it came to that, then she and her husband would become fierce advocates to guarantee "their baby" got the best care available.
Contrary to popular belief, Rogers said the actual adoption process doesn’t take "forever." State law requires that prospective adoptive parents, who are not blood relatives of the child, have the child living in their home for at least six months prior to finalizing the adoption.
"There’s a common misconception that adoptions take years to go through the process and that is just not the case," he said. "Most adoptions take between 60 and 90 days from the filing of the petition to the final hearing because the child is already living with the prospective adoptive parents."
The only exceptions, generally, are those adoptions where there’s a contested issue. "But that’s not really that common, at least not that I’ve seen in Butler County," Rogers said.
While Rogers said all adoptions represent defining moments in the lives of the families involved, in his courtroom toddler age and older children involved leave with a very particular memory -- that of banging the gavel on their own adoption.
At his bench, Rogers keeps three gavels of graduated sizes which he calls "baby bear," "mama bear" and "papa bear."
At the conclusion of final adoption hearings, Rogers explains to the children involved that nothing is final until the strike of the judge’s gavel. He then invites the children to come up to the bench, pick up the gavel that’s appropriate for their size and strike it.
"It empowers them to be part of finalizing their own adoption," Rogers said.
And when it's done, Rogers tells the children they are part of the family.