Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reality: An Anniversary Worthy of Celebrating

On February 11th, 2011, Solomon became a Stout for life.
In honor of this amazing gift from God, we celebrate his Adoption Day Anniversary by collecting donations for a pro-life cause in our world.

Always for life.

In 2015, we have chosen to collect donations for Swaddling Clothes.  You can learn about what Swaddling Clothes is by looking at their website -

Basically, they are stores full of everything needed for raising a baby, and people who need it can shop for free!  The current four locations are run by LCMS congregations, and they are always looking to grow into new communities, as well.  Most of the clothes and toys are all by donation (gently used and gathered from the community), but there are always needs that cannot be met by used items.  The money you donate will be used to purchase necessary items for each location - diapers, wipes, formula, carseats, etc.

Why is this an important organization?  Because being pro-life isn't political.  It isn't just saying, "Hey, I'm pro-life."

It is stepping into the community and saying, "Here is how we show we are pro-life."  It is reaching out to those women and men in need of help during pregnancies which they did not expect.  It is offering a hand to those who choose life.  It is offering financial support to those who are out doing this work.

In 2011, Solomon became a Stout for life.  May he always be for life.  May we all always be for life.

If you are interested in donating in our son's name, please write checks payable to "Swaddling Clothes" and write our son's birthname/adoptive name in the memo line - "In honor of Solomon Hoem Stout"  Checks may be sent to:

Swaddling Clothes
C/O Katie Fiene
PO Box 225
Channahon, IL 60410

Mrs. Fiene has graciously offered to collect all the donations and divide them equally among all four Swaddling Clothes locations (Channohon, IL, Golconda, IL, Marengo, IA, and Keller, TX).

Here are where previous donations have been given:
2012 - Solomon's adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services in Waukesha, WI.
2013 -  Pastor and Mrs. Weslie Odom, in memory of their daughter Matilda Grace, who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and passed from this life from a heart condition just a couple days after birth.
2014 - A Place of Refuge in southern Wisconsin, a crisis pregnancy center.

If you are interested in reading about Solomon's Adoption Day in February of 2011, please feel free to read on -


All in all, adoption finalization day hadn't seemed so important to us. Solomon's birthday – hugely important. The day we picked him up from the hospital – momentous occasion. Solomon’s baptism – beyond compare. However, the normal BIG moments of an adoption didn’t seem like such big things for us.  The termination of parental rights, the visits from the adoption agency, the finalization…it was all sort of extra to the point that we were just living our lives. We lived as a family, we visited the birth family, we took pictures on month birthdays, we had the typical milestones – flipping over, scooting, crawling, teething, sitting up, baby food, and we had the typical pitfalls of parenting – made some minor mistakes, had to watch him get his regular shots, stayed up crazy hours at night, had to live through baby illnesses, diaper rash, diaper explosions, you name it, we did it. We were a family, like any other family. Nothing seemed incomplete or missing. Sure, Solomon didn’t have our last name, but we had grown to love his name and where it came from. It wasn’t something we were ashamed of – it was part of him, which made it perfect.

Now, though, I thought about what it means to be a family in the legal since. We were already family, obviously. However, the government really has a lot to say about who my family is. If Chris and I had died before the finalization was complete, what would have happened to Solomon? We had chosen with Bethany Christian Services who we would like to have given rights to. However, until that finalization form was signed, he was under legal guardianship of the state and Bethany Christian Services. Technically, he may not have ended up with anyone in our family. We were not a family according to the state of Wisconsin. That thought was a lot for me to take in.

On February 11, 2011, at approximately 9:00 a.m., the Stout family (Chris, Solomon, and I) arrived at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center in Wauwatosa, WI. This is the location of all of the Milwaukee County Children’s Courts. One of the most shocking experiences for us was that all of the courtrooms in this building only saw children’s cases, and certainly most of these cases are not as happy as our little family. Walking through this center was somewhat surreal. There were children around, parents, foster families, lawyers, principals, judges, and most were not seemingly in good conversations. The thought of the anguish of all of these families on our very special day was another humbling experience. We felt the great needs coming from all of these families, and the burdens were so heavy. As we waited outside Judge Christopher Foley’s courtroom, we were chatting with other families about Solomon and a little bit of our story. Everyone was so joyous towards us, which was very comforting. They were here for many different reasons – most of which were not happy occasions – but they all seemed to have a sense of excitement for us. The love from strangers was sweet and innocent and communal.

Judge Foley’s courtroom door swung open with two people – a father and a lawyer – discussing the previous case. I have no idea what was said or done, but by the body language, it seemed unpleasant.  At that moment, I thought to myself about what a difficult job Judge Foley must have. I thought about the anguish I had seen in the faces of many of the people coming and going in these courtrooms. I thought about the children I had seen – children of school age, obviously not in school, but in court. It was almost too much for me to handle in that moment.  My emotions were getting the best of me. Then, something amazing happened.  The courtroom door swung open again, out walked the judge, and he turned to us, looked at Solomon, and with the biggest smile and jovial voice, he said, “Well, Solomon, it’s your big day!  Are we gonna have some fun in there or what?!?!”  I was so shocked that I just smiled and waited for him to say something else.  Chris and I both felt instantly comforted by his attitude and personality. 

We stepped in the courtroom with Solomon, representatives from Bethany Christian Services, and the judge.  There were two other women in the room (court recorder and the person who swears you in) and a man who was the bailiff.  The judge escaped to his private office in the back and came out in his full robe, but he didn’t sit at the bench. He came down to our seat and handed Solomon a present – a stuffed dog that barks when you squeeze it. Solomon smiled, and the judge said it was a gift from all of them for his big day.

The hearing began. The social worker from Bethany Christian Services was called to the stand as a witness. She was asked a series of questions about us: our marriage, our home life, our ability to parent, our intentions, and our dedication to the child. It may seem all grim and stark on paper (or computer screen, depending on how you are reading this), but Judge Foley made the whole thing seem very fun and easy-going (he joked around between questions – making comments about how we only had to sign for 18 years but kids will be around a lot longer than that for parents to take care of and college is when they really get expensive, he commented about the joys and perils of raising 7 of his own children, etc).  He had previously read the entire file concerning our adoption, and therefore, already knew all the answers to these questions. This was just a legal formality to have these written in the court records. He dismissed the social worker from the stand.

Then, he asked for either Chris or I to take the stand. As he was asking for one of us, he stepped off the bench and came down and asked me if Solomon would allow him to hold him.  I handed Solomon over, and the judge put him up on his head as he walked back to the bench. Solomon reached out and began pulling the judge’s hair.  Judge Foley said, “Solomon! What are we going to do with you? You know this is a federal offense – you are assaulting a judge!”  So, there was Solomon sitting on the lap of the judge on the bench. Judge Foley handed his gavel to Solomon.  It went straight into his mouth.  The judge looked at me and laughed. I said, “Fair warning, your honor, he has two teeth and will probably chew marks in your gavel.”  The judge responded, “Oh, I am not worried about that!  There are quite a few teeth marks in this gavel from other adoptees.” So, for the rest of the questioning, Solomon used Judge Foley’s gavel as a chew toy.

Chris took the stand – mostly because my husband is a big dork and thinks it is cool to use his God-given right of swearing in the presence of a courtroom and judge.  So, he was sworn in on the stand…and he loved it.  Funny guy!  Anyway, the questions then came – most of them were the same questions the judge had asked the social worker. I can’t remember all of them, but here is an overview of the topics: “Is there a history of or a current issue of domestic violence in your home?” “Is it true that you have spoken to Bethany Christian Services representatives on many occasions about the duties, rights, and responsibilities of parents?” “Do you understand your rights and responsibilities as parents?” “Have you or your wife ever been convicted of a crime?” “Is it your intention to provide for the basic needs of this child until he reaches the age of 18…and much longer, I am sure?” To this last question, Chris responded, “Yes…with the help of God.” The judge looked caught off guard and began to laugh.  He said, “Yes, Mr. Stout, it will take an enormous amount of help from God to pull this task off…let me tell you…I certainly know that with my own seven.” At that, the judge asked if there was anything else “Mr. Stout” would like to share for the record.  Chris said, “Yes, actually.  Thanks for being so cool about this!”  The judge burst out laughing, turned to his court reporter, and said, “Please put that in the record.  I have been called a lot of things, but I have never been called cool!  I can’t wait to print this out and show it to my kids.” Chris stepped down from the witness stand.  The judge turned to me and asked me to state my name for the record.  Then, he asked me if I was in agreement with my husband on all of his responses.  I said yes, and that ended the questioning.

Judge Foley said that he was in full agreement with the recommendation of Bethany Christian Services and that he was assigning full custody and parental rights to Mr. and Mrs. Christopher and Kelly Stout. He looked at Solomon (still on his lap) and said, “Well, Solomon Stout, you want to make this official? You hold onto this gavel.” At that, he and Solomon slammed the gavel down.

So, about 20 minutes after it started, the Stout family walked out of Judge Foley’s courtroom.  We had walked in a family, and we walked out a family.  Only this time, Wisconsin agreed that we were indeed a family. We now added Adoption Finalization Day to our list of big family moments.

Solomon and Judge Foley finalizing the adoption case by slamming the gavel.