Most of the child-related cases heard in Clark Circuit Court No. 4 are grim. Judge Vicki Carmichael is accustomed to tales of neglect, abuse and troubled juveniles.
“Those are the tough ones,” she said.
Saturday’s court docket brought something entirely different — children with smiles on their faces clasping dolls and stuffed animals in front of the bench.
The special occasion was “Judge Vicki’s” ninth annual Adopt-A-Doll day, when children take an oath to care for their toys and receive a certificate and order of adoption.
“It’s just fun,” Carmichael said.
It’s also a way for the public to experience the legal system — “to show them that the courtroom’s not a scary place, it’s not always a bad place to be,” she said.
Adopt-A-Doll teaches children the important responsibility of care for something, relaying an especially relevant experience for children who were adopted themselves, Carmichael said.
“I think it’s educational for those kids and helps the parents explain to them, ‘Remember when we adopted you and we said we were going to take care of you? This is you adopting your doll, you’re going to take care of your doll,’” she said. “I think it’s a way for them to explain to their child how important that is and why they did what they did.”
Adoptions also take place in Carmichael’s court. After she began the Adopt-A-Doll program, Carmichael found herself on the other side of the bench when she adopted now 23-year-old Cleneth Lumenario from the Philippines.
Although adopting Lumenario wasn’t necessary for custody — she was a 19-year-old Filipino immigrant at the time —Carmichael said the gesture was an important one.
“What we wanted to do was show her we loved her, we wanted to take care of her,” she said.
Lumenario brought her dog, Bibble, up to the bench Saturday.
Bibble, an Australian Shepherd labradoodle mix named after a Barbie character, is training to be a therapy dog for children who must testify in Carmichael's court.
“I’ve waited for Bibble for three years,” Lumenario said.
Another participant Saturday has also been on the receiving end of adoption.
Three-year-old Michael Reed, who brought a Star Wars stuffed bear, was adopted by his own family just this past November.
His grandmother, Barbara Reed, said the family hosted a “gotcha” party to welcome him. His sister, 9-year-old Sophia, wanted to come to Adopt-A-Doll ever since.
“They thought it would help him realize it was a great thing,” Barbara Reed said.
Tyler Smith brought her 7-year-old foster daughter, Ariyonnah. Smith is in the process of adoption, though it’s taking a while.
“This is really special for her to do it herself,” Smith said.
She also wanted to show Ariyonnah adoption is a positive process and isn't scary.
Other families brought their children for educational purposes — and just to have some fun.
Leatha Jackson brought granddaughters Jordyn and Jayden Stoudemire. They carry on the family tradition, as their mother Klarisa adopted her own dolls when former Judge Buzz Jacobs hosted the event in the 1980s.
She still remembers it.
“It’s amazing that she’s kept that with her all these years,” Jackson said.
“She liked the fact that it made it more official, and she liked that it made her more of a mother back then.”
Steve and Jackie Isaacs brought daughters Lucy and Aubrey to demonstrate the legal process in a friendly setting.
“I just thought it would be a good introduction to see what a courthouse is like,” Steve Isaacs said.