Picture this: a drive-through hospital window in which a mother can deposit her newborn child, abandoning that child to the care and custody of complete strangers. Impossible, right?

Unfortunately, the “drop box” for unwanted babies is a sad reality.

According to a news release from last week, a hospital in the Japanese city of Kumamoto has installed a small hatch which permits parents to anonymously deposit unwanted babies into an incubator 24 hours daily. This measure was undertaken to combat the growing problem in Japanese society of unwanted children being left in parks and supermarkets. And Japan is not the only country which has such drop boxes.

The number of unwanted children is increasing worldwide. And the United States is no exception. According to the U.S. Department of Human Services, 114,000 children awaited adoption in 2005. Of those children who started out in foster care in 2005, only 51,323 were actually adopted, leaving tens of thousands of children in flux.

What is sad is that thousands of qualified and caring individuals are willing to serve as adoptive parents, yet are unable to do so for a multitude of reasons. For the courts, adoptions are a wonderful deviation from the norm.

So much of what courts do on a daily basis involves assigning blame or fault for all of the tragic incidents associated with modern society. Unlike the bulk of these duties, adoptions are proceedings which make for truly golden days, those days on which a judge feels blessed to be entrusted with the responsibility of a public office designed to be helpful, caring and compassionate. On these rare days, courts can unite with attorneys and litigants in an effort to effectuate a positive and permanent change in someone else’s life. And because many adoptions only come about because of a series of tragic or unfortunate events in a young child’s life, the ability of the courts to bring about some measure of joy for all concerned is all the more rewarding.

In Kentucky, about 600 public agency adoptions occur annually, or about one in four children placed in permanent foster care. That number is far too small considering the total number of children awaiting adoption.

Generally speaking, adoptions may arise by the consent of the living parents, or when the parents rights to the child have been involuntarily terminated, or where a biological parent failed to establish parental rights, such as is often the case with children born out-of-wedlock where the identity of the father is unknown.

All adoptions in Kentucky occur in the Circuit Court and are commenced by the filing of a petition. Once the proceedings begin, the courts must determine that all of the legal requirements to adoption have been met and that the adoptive parent(s) are of good moral character and have the ability to support and maintain the child, and most importantly, that adoption is in the best interests of the child.

Once a judgment of adoption is granted by the court, the child’s name is changed and the child is vested with every legal right, privilege and obligation afforded a natural, legitimate child born of the adoptive parents. Thus, the adopted child inherits from the adoptive parents and the adoptive parents become legally responsible for that child, including the obligation to pay support for the child even if the adoptive parents later divorce.

Despite legitimate concerns about some adoptions occurring too fast, the majority of adoptions are completed without complication. Many more are needed annually. There is no reason for any child of tender years to grow up in this country without the love and support that comes from a family relationship.

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