State Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. holds Emery Lamp as he finalizes adoption proceedings for parents Eric and Jessica Lamp of Saranac. / ROD SANFORD/Lansing State Journal

By: Lauren Misjak

Lyn Chase balances 3-year-old Ruby on her hip with the easy grace of a loving mother.

Since the Dansville woman and her husband first met their newly adopted daughters – Ruby and 22-month-old Mara – nearly a year ago, they knew they were meant to be the girls’ parents.

Tuesday’s court hearings just made it official.

“They are just a joy to be around,” said father Kevin Chase. “They bring light into our lives every day.”

The Chases and two other Ingham County families were part of the 145 adoptions finalized across Michigan during the ninth annual Michigan Adoption Day.

Another pair of sisters, 13-year-old Angie and 11-year-old Elizabeth, also legally joined their “forever family” Tuesday – the Pheils of Stockbridge.

“I’m pretty psyched- big time,” said Elizabeth, who now has five additional older siblings. “When I first started (visiting Dan and Chris Pheils), I thought ‘This is kind of weird.’ But after a couple visits, once I started getting used to it I kept wanting to visit.”

About 30 counties recognized Michigan Adoption Day, which was designed to bring awareness and celebrate those who’ve permanently extended their hearts and homes to children in the foster care system.

“We hold it just before Thanksgiving so we all remember what we have to be thankful for,” said Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, who spearheaded the annual day nine years ago.

Five floors below the Michigan Supreme Court chambers where the Pheils and Chases officially opened their arms to their newest kin, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that would help the 279 foster kids who have yet to meet adoptive families.

The Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care Act extends adoption, guardianship and foster care assistance until age 21, rather than 18, to better help in the transition to adulthood.

“I’m proud to say Michigan is becoming a leader of stepping up to the plate, saying we can’t leave these children just because they turn adults,” Snyder said.

“Let’s be relentless in making sure we’re taking care of the most important thing in our state: our children.”

Anthony Ashman, 20, of Macomb County, who spent seven years in foster care, receives help from a DHS program that pairs social workers at Western Michigan University with former foster children to further aid with growing responsibilities.

As part of the program, he received financial literacy training and has someone to lean on for help with finding housing and other issues. He applauded the new legislation, which is expected to be implemented next year after federal review.

“Everybody needs a person they can call on just to tell them about their day,” Ashman said.

“This extension of foster care will prevent young adults in the system from becoming another negative statistic.”

Lansing State Journal, November 23, 2011