Our son, officially
WEBSTER CITY — Billie Long, of Moorland, sat at a table in the courtroom at the Hamilton County Courthouse Saturday morning holding her son, Samuel, 1, looking up toward the bench at District Associate Judge Joseph Tofilon.
Next to her, husband David and two of her other children, Skye, 7 and Tobias, 5.
She bent down and gave her son a kiss on the forehead as Tofilon spoke a few words the family has been waiting to hear for almost two years.
“I will approve the adoption petition,” he said.
Those final words sent a wave of joy through the room. For Billie, David, Skye and Tobias, that pronouncement made what everyone already knew and felt in their hearts official.
Samuel is their son and brother.
Samuel Long was one of 16 children from 11 families whose adoptions were approved Saturday during the Four Oaks Family Connections Adoption Day.
The organization oversees adoptions for 69 of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Samuel joined the Long family a few days into his life.
“We got a call from the case worker asking us if we were able to take an infant,” Billie Long said. “We said yes immediately. He was less than a day old. Two days later we brought him home. From 3 days old he’s been our son.”
Both of his siblings were also adopted. They really like their brother.
Tofilon asked them.
“Are you in favor of your brother coming to your family?” he said.
Both of them, without hesitation, said “Yes.”
During the hearing, Tofilon had warned them about something that’s going to happen in a decade or so.
“You understand that he will become a teenager,” he said.
David Long had even tried on the stylish cap his son wore for the occasion.
“I wish I was the one that picked it out,” he said.
For Tofilon, it was a special hearing too. He’s known the family for years and worked with them on their other adoptions.
“I was his guardian ad litum when I was an attorney,” he said while looking at Tobias who smiled back.
The joy wasn’t just at the witness table and on the bench, a roll call at the start of the hearing became part of the official court record.
After stating their names, the guests stated their relationship.
“Grandpa, grandma, great aunt, great uncle, aunt, cousin, sister in-law,” Samuel has a big family.
The only one missing was Samuel’s oldest brother.
Cody Long, 27.
“He’s in the Navy,” Billie Long said. “He’s incredibly supportive. He as involved as he can be. He told me ‘I’m thrilled to have another little brother.'”
Bambi Schrader, recruitment and training coordinator for Four Oaks said that like the Longs, many families choose to adopt multiple children after they have fostered them.
An adoption day is a mix of joy and loss for Schrader.
“We’ll adopt 200 children into homes across the state and in the process, we’ll lose 150 foster families,” she said. “We have some really great families that we loose.”
Foster families are always being sought.
Long encourages families to welcome a child into their home.
“Take the leap,” she said. “Any misgivings you might have will be superceded by the joys you’ll experience. You’ll be amazed at the journey.”
As a bonus, after seeing you wear your son’s hat, you might see that a district associate judge has an excellent sense of humor when they call on you in court.
“Mr. Long and hat,” Tofilon said. “Do you believe Samuel looks to you as his dad?”
“That’s what he calls me,” Long replied.
Officially now, he is.