- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2003

Hundreds gathered at D.C. Superior Court in Northwest yesterday to celebrate with the men, women and children who officially became families during the District’s 17th Annual Adoption Day in Court ceremony.

Nearly 500 people came to see 43 youngsters and their parents receive adoption decrees from the judges who worked with the adults, the children and the social workers during the arduous adoption process.

They also got a chance to meet Antwone Fisher, an acclaimed author and screenwriter who grew up in foster care and had been repeatedly abused and neglected before leaving the system.

Family Court Judge Lee F. Satterfield told the new families he was honored to preside over the ceremony, which was sponsored by D.C. Courts and the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency.

“We’re all excited about families accepting their adoption decrees — this is very inspiring,” the judge said. “Our theme this year is: ‘Our Children. Our Promise. Our Future.’ What we promise today is that dreams do come true.”

Anthony Reid Walters, 15, was one of the children adopted yesterday. He was 8 when he went to live with Wilton and Winnifred Walters, after spending four years in foster care. Anthony said he now feels safe and secure.

“I’m a part of a family,” Anthony said. “There are people that I can call on when I need emotional support. It was very scary before — I didn’t know where I was going. Today, I feel great.”

Chief Judge Rufus G. King III commended the efforts of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, who worked to pass the Family Court Act of 2001, which President Bush signed into law Jan. 8.

The act created a Family Court within D.C. Superior Court, and it allowed the courts to hire new magistrate judges to handle the Family Court caseload, which includes cases of neglect and abuse. The law also created a “one family-one judge” doctrine to ensure that each family is permanently assigned to one judicial team.

Mrs. Norton, who attended yesterday’s ceremony, said the adoption rate in the District has increased this year. So far, there have been 315 adoptions this year, up from 255 last year.

Mrs. Norton yesterday thanked the men and women who are opening their homes and “saving these children.”

“You have done the most important act anyone can do for a child — taken these children and made them your own,” Mrs. Norton said. “We are all deeply indebted.”

Others who attended the ceremony were Toni A. Williams from the Freddie Mac Foundation; Barbara Harrison, anchorwoman on WRC-TV; D.C. Deputy Mayor Carolyn Graham; and Olivia Golden, director of the District’s Child and Family Services Agency.

Mr. Fisher, accompanied by his wife and two daughters, flew overnight from Los Angeles to attend yesterday’s ceremonies. He told the audience that he was struck by the beauty of the sunrise.

“It was an appropriate start for the day. I always think to myself what it would have been like to have been adopted. It’s a beautiful thing to offer love to a child. And, I think this is the first part of the celebration,” Mr. Fisher said.

“I think about Americans, the most charitable people in the world, and it’s hard to believe there are so many children in foster care,” he said. Referring to the adoptions that take place overseas, he added, “Charity should begin at home.”

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