Award-winning singer Billy Gilman delivered a performance that resonated in the hearts of those who celebrated National Adoption Day at Family Court on Saturday.
“I’ma keep fighting, fighting,” Gilman sang in his newest song, “Soldier,” as a crowd of families, friends and social workers gathered in a Family Court hallway before 20 adopted children were united with 18 different families.
“Keep on fighting. That’s what we do at court – to keep on fighting for families to be safe and happy and for the children to find that place where they belong,” said Linda Lynch, director of the court’s Women’s Services Department.
Gilman said the issue of adoption has always been near and dear to his heart. In his song “Oklahoma,” he highlighted a boy’s journey through multiple foster homes and how the boy never knew his real father existed until the father eventually brought the boy home.
“I couldn’t imagine the joy these kids feel and the joy the parents now feel to know they are giving the children a forever situation,” Gilman said. “It is very heartwarming, and whenever I get the chance to be a part of it, it is important to me.”
After former Family Court Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah Jr. and the Family Court staff learned about National Adoption Day 16 years ago, Lynch said they decided to honor Rhode Island families who were willing to make the sacrifice of adopting a foster child.
“It is absolutely amazing,” Lynch said of the occasion. “We are so lucky at Family Court to have a great staff, and Adoption Rhode Island is fabulous with all the work they do throughout the year to make sure the children find forever homes.”
Lynch explained between 20 and 25 children have been adopted during each of the 16 National Adoption Day ceremonies that Family Court has hosted.
According to Lynch, the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families sees between 350 and 400 families adopt children throughout the year. National Adoption Day plays a big role in reaching that number.
“We always start with the mantra that every child needs a family,” said Kevin Aucoin, DCYF’s acting director. “You, the adopted parents, have answered that call in a big way for these children.”
Many local businesses sponsor the event and help create gift bags filled with toys, stuffed animals and gift cards for the adopted children and their families. One of those notable sponsors is the Cardi’s Furniture Cares program.
In a touching tribute to Nick Cardi, who passed away in August and supported many local charities benefiting Rhode Island’s children and families, Family Court Chief Judge Michael Forte presented the first annual Hope Award to Nick’s brothers, Ron and Pete Cardi.
“The Hope Award is to be presented annually to individuals or organizations, who like Nick, have selflessly and wholeheartedly endeavored to the community a better place for Rhode Island’s children and families,” Forte said.
Roger and Rich Fournier-Machado – alongside their son, Christopher, who they adopted in May – advised families to make use of resources, create a strong support network and enjoy every second of every day, even when life gets busy.
“It has been the most fulfilling thing we’ve ever done in our lives,” Roger said. “Everyone tells us how lucky he is for such a great family, but you will quickly learn as families, we are the lucky ones.”