A courtroom full of happy people is a rare thing to see, but that’s what it looked like at an adoption hearing Tuesday in Conway

Three young children were made a part of two local families after the brief hearing. Adoptive parents answered a few questions about their ability to care for the children and if they understood that the children would be theirs as though they were the natural parents. The parents answered that they could, and that they did, and so it was ordered by Circuit Judge David Clark.

The hearing was brief, but the adoption process isn’t. Prospective foster parents are extensively vetted by local Department of Health and Human Services workers, starting with an "info meeting" where "we tell them about the good, the bad and the ugly of adopting," DHS Area 5 adoption and resource supervisor Danielle Sims said after the hearing. Then come a number of background checks, 30 hours of parenting classes, and a home visit.

"Our number one priority is always to protect kids," Sims said. "We make sure they have good, quality homes to live in, because this is permanent — these are people’s lives."

Once a foster family is paired with a child or children a requisite six-month waiting period is required before the child can be adopted. Often it takes longer for a number of reasons. One new adoptive parent on Tuesday said she waited 20 months after taking a child into her home.

"I’m always scared that one day we’re going to run out of people who’ll step into a horrific situation and make it right," Clark said of foster and adoptive families during the hearing. "You didn’t make this mess . . . but you step in and make it better. That’s a wonderful gift."

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Between 25 and 30 children are adopted per month in Clark’s jurisdiction, but he said more people willing to take in children are always needed. Crystal Dendy, coordinator for The Call, an organization that recruits Christian families to foster or adopt, said that there are about 160 children in foster homes in Faulkner and Conway counties, and only 32 homes in Faulkner County currently ready to take in children. There are only four in Conway County, she said.

"You’re heroes in my book," Clark said to the new adoptive parents.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)