As Marion Superior Judge Steven Eichholtz read the order officially transitioning a girl’s grandmother to the new title of adoptive mother, 10-year-old Victoria Kaufman told the judge she couldn’t stop smiling.
Victoria has been living with her paternal grandmother, Cindy Keith, in Mooresville since August 2013, but Keith officially became her granddaughter’s mother on Friday when Eichholtz finalized the family’s adoption order. The Marion Superior Court judge opened his courtroom to photos, videos and other media Friday as part of a celebration of National Adoption Month.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declared November as National Adoption Awareness Month in 2014, and for years, the Indiana Supreme Court has issued an order allowing for still photography, video and audio coverage of National Adoption Day around the state.
Although courtrooms are generally closed to cameras and recording devices during proceedings, the Indiana court system makes an exception to that rule each November to raise awareness of the need for adoptive parents for children around the state. However, documents and records of the adoption proceedings remain sealed from public access.
Friday’s adoption proceedings were Eichholtz’s first experience participating in the open National Adoption Day celebrations, and the probate judge said he chose to open his courtroom to draw attention to the love and sacrifice involved when adults choose to formally adopt kids as their children.
“There are all types of adoptions, and I’ve seen countless parents step up and help children who need a loving family,” Eichholtz said.
As she and Victoria moved through the legal process of adoption, Keith said they were required to go to court hearings every two to three months as the judicial system tried to find a remedy that would allow Victoria to remain with her biological parents, despite the fact that she had lived with her grandmother on and off since she was born, and permanently since 2013.
When Victoria moved in with her grandmother in 2013, she was struggling in school and her grades were poor. But with Keith’s help and guidance, the 10-year-old is now an honor student who tutors her peers. Victoria’s improvements under Keith’s care ultimately led the court to allow the grandmother-granddaughter duo to make the leap to mother and daughter.
Eichholtz’s courtroom was filled with emotion as families like Victoria and Keith reached the end of the lengthy legal battles to officially make their grandchildren, stepchildren and other kids in their lives their children under the law. The legal considerations that could prevent them from fully taking care of their children before their adoptions are stressful, the parents said, so when Eiccholtz made their parent-child relationships official, they couldn’t hold back the tears.
“I’m just relieved that she’s now my actual daughter,” Keith said. “I don’t have to worry about anything. She’s my family.”