The importance of Davenport's first National Adoption Day ceremony Friday at the Scott County Courthouse wasn't lost on District Court Judge Marlita Greve.
In her courtroom, she has seen many heartbreaking cases involving children.As she finalized adoptions of three children before Friday's ceremony, she shared her own experiences with children needing good homes.
"My daughter is adopted," Judge Greve said. "We adopted her 27 years ago. She was born to teenage parents who couldn't take care of her.
"I think that's a loving thing they did by giving her up," she said."We couldn't have kids. It allowed us to create a family."
November is National Adoption Awareness Month, with Davenport's Adoption Day ceremony held a day before the national celebration today. Iowa social service agencies, parents, judges and public officials gathered Friday on the third floor of the courthouse to celebrate adoptions and to focus on the need for more families to adopt children or provide foster care.
The mood contrast the miseries children sometimes face that Judge Greve has seen in her courtroom.
"There are a lot of kids that are abused and so forth," she said. "They really need families.
"Today was a fun thing we did in court (adoption ceremonies)," she said. "Usually what we do in court, it's not very fun. You're breaking up families, instead of making up families."
Jane Montford, of Davenport, at the ceremony with 9-year-old Hailey whom Ms. Montford and her husband, David, adopted in 2005, tried to describe what it's like to be an adoptive parent.
"It is very hard to put into words," Ms. Montford said. "The joy far outweighs the struggles. She is a very good thing for our family."
Families must prepare well for adoptions, she said.
"It was quite scary," Ms. Montford said. "They called me at work one day and said, 'We have Hailey and she's 19 months.'"
But that fear quickly left, Ms. Montford said.
"She was mine," she said. "I just knew it. I knew that's our child."
Alice Tirrell, a service area leader for Iowa Kids Net, which recruits, trains and licenses foster homes, said there is an overwhelming need for adoption and foster care services. She praised Iowa's foster parents.
"Foster parents realize these kids are leaving everybody: grandparents, friends in the neighborhood, their pets," she said.
"They're going through an amazing amount of grief and loss. You've got a lot of anger issues, a lot of sadness and depression," Ms. Tirrell said. "Our parents step up and welcome them into their homes.
"It's amazing what you can accomplish with these kids," she said. "No therapist is going to accomplish this, working an hour a week. They are not going to accomplish what a foster parent will be able to do just by being there, just by being a normal, healthy family with dinner on the table and the help with homework."
Illinois faces a similar need for foster and adoptive parents. Dave Clarkin, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said abuse and neglect cases have increased in downstate Illinois.
According to DCFS, child abuse and neglect rates have risen by 5.4 percent in downstate counties. A DCFS report states 35 downstate counties -- including the Quad-Cities region of Rock Island, Mercer, Knox, Henderson, Stark and Warren counties -- have more than double the statewide average.
"We do have a high demand for both foster parents and adopted families across Illinois, particularly in the Quad-Cities region, central Illinois and southern Illinois," he said Friday. "Statewide, there are 2,040 children legally available for adoption."
There is a direct correlation between high rates of abuse and neglect and the need for foster families to provide temporary homes for children, Mr. Clarkin said.
"The rise in abuse and neglect we've seen in the Quad-Cities, central Illinois and southern Illinois, in particular, is really driving this need for more foster families and more adoptive families to come forward," he said.
Ryan and Lisa Koster, of LeClaire, are among those adoptive families in Iowa. Now the parents of6-month-old Josiah, they adopted Kinsey, 18 months, this time last year.
The two babies on Friday followed the celebrations, watching other children eating cookies and talking with their families. Babies in strollers gurgled, entertained by siblings and other kids holding helium balloons nearby.
"We tried having kids, but it didn't happen for a year or two," Mr. Koster said, holding his daughter. "We knew other people who have adopted.
"It's been amazing having kids," he added. "It's been fulfilling to do, and you know you're helping someone."
Hailey Montford walked through the courtroom Friday, carrying a basket of cards and pictures she had drawn.She handed one girl a card that had "Girl" written on the envelope. She also passed out her pictures to other children, total strangers.
"She brought this stuff along for other adopted kids," her mother said. "She's crafty. She likes working on all these little things."
Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba watched the adoptive and foster families come together.
"I salute the adoptive and foster parents for taking this step," he said.
"They're going to get a lot more back in love. They're going to give a lot of love. What's certainly lacking in this day and age throughout the world is love."
Judge Greve has created a tradition of letting kids come up to the bench and bang the gavel when their adoption process is complete. She also gives them Beanie Babies.
"Kids, like our elderly, are our most vulnerable in society," Judge Greve said. "We deal with so much tough stuff here in the courts, you've got to really tell yourself there's a lot better things going on in the world. But when you see that (abuse and neglect) day in and day out, it makes it tough.
"I would hope a lot of people can be foster parents and adopt children," she said. "There is no better reward for the parent, and no better reward for the child."
What is National Adoption Day
National Adoption Day, celebrated the Saturday before Thanksgiving, has helped nearly 40,000 children move from foster care to a forever family since it began in 2000.
Nationally, there are more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent families.
Today is Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today. 1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass. 1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links. 1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned. 1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today. 1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.