In adoption circles, there's a saying: “Adopting a child doesn't just affect the child. It affects the whole family.”
The truth of that was on full display Wednesday morning inside the packed courtroom of Allen County Superior Court Judge Charles F. Pratt.
For the day's second adoption, the “whole family” on hand were mostly relatives of Kiley and Teresa Knoblauch of Fort Wayne, adoptive parents of Charles Michael Johnson.
More than 30 people jostled for seats and space, with some of the children climbing onto adults' laps and others standing in corners.
“I've been doing this since 2014, and this is probably the biggest group I've ever seen,” said court executive John McGauley, serving as a photographer documenting the event, the 13th Adoption Day hosted by the court.
The annual celebration takes place during November, National Adoption Month. Thirty-two children were expected to have their adoptions finalized by the end of the day.
In 2007, Allen County was the first in Indiana to host an adoption day, Pratt said. Since then, the event has grown to include many community organizations that prepare funding or gifts for families.
For the Knoblauch family, the day marked the beginning of a second brood of children.
Teresa Knoblauch, assistant superintendent of elementary education at East Allen County Schools, said she and her husband, Kiley, pastor of The Crossing church in New Haven, gained interest in adoption after their daughter, the oldest of three children, left for college.
In a meeting right after earning their license as foster parents, their caseworker said he had a child who needed placement.
That was Christian, who is now 9 years old and likes being called C.J. He was placed May 1, 2018.
Later, the Knoblauchs would learn of C.J.'s two siblings – and now they both are on track to becoming adopted into the family, said Teresa Knoblauch.
Sibling groups are considered harder to place.
Serving as an elementary school principal and before that as an elementary teacher made her “very aware” of area children's needs, she said.
“Just seeing his growth in being part of the family and his growth in school” has been “rewarding,” Teresa Knoblauch said as a quiet C.J. played with a balloon on a stick nearby. “I think just learning how to be loved having attention in that way was something he wasn't used to.”
Among the people who turned out for the brief adoption ceremony, which included C.J.'s name change to Christian Michael Johnson Knoblauch, were siblings, grandparents, cousins and members of what Teresa Knoblauch called “our church family.”
In one of only a couple brief remarks, C.J. said the family he's now part of is “almost too big.”
That didn't surprise his adoptive mom. “I think one thing he had to walk through was his emotions,” she said. “It took time to work that out, so he really knows we're going to be there for him every day.”
To learn more
Allen Superior Court and Great KIDS' music video, “Shine,” celebrating adoptive families, including some from Allen County, can be seen at bit.ly/2OuGwCR.
For more information about becoming an adoptive parent, call Michelle Nell, Special Needs Adoption Program specialist at the Indiana Department of Child Services, 219-851-3174.