Local families join in National Adoption Day

GRAND FORKS - Two courtrooms were packed Saturday morning as onlookers waited for hearings to start at the Northeast Central District Court in downtown Grand Forks.

GRAND FORKS - Two courtrooms were packed Saturday morning as onlookers waited for hearings to start at the Northeast Central District Court in downtown Grand Forks.

But Lawrence Jahnke, the judge presiding over one of the courtrooms, admitted that these weren't typical cases.

"These are probably the highlights of hearings we have because nobody goes away mad," he said.

He said he was glad to participate in the hearings, the final step in the often lengthy adoption process for five families in the region, because Jahnke and his sister were adopted.

During two hours, five hearings were held that officially granted the adoptions of nine foster children as a local celebration of National Adoption Day, an event that helps raise awareness of the 129,000 foster children waiting to be adopted in the United States.


'We love having her'

Jahnke presided over Jasmine Rae Cantrell's adoption to Danny and Carmon Lindblad, her foster parents since September 2008. During the hearing, Carmon was asked to describe her relationship with her soon-to-be daughter.

"She's a bright, energetic child, and we love having her," she said.

Danny had a short-but-sweet description of his relationship with Jasmine: "Father-daughter," he said.

Jasmine, an 11-year-old Schroeder Middle School student who said science was her favorite subject, was shy during her line of questioning. But she couldn't resist cracking a big smile when Janet Gregory, an attorney representing families Saturday, asked "What do you think of all these brothers?" looking at the four younger siblings who share the Lindblad's home.

Before she got a chance to answer, Jahnke quickly put a stop to the loaded question. "You don't have to answer that," he joked.

It took only about 15 minutes before the hearing was over and the girl's name was changed to Jasmine Rae Cantrell Lindblad, legally making her part of the family she has lived with for more than a year.

Gregory said she looks forward to these hearings because they are a happy celebration for the families. "It's probably the most enjoyable thing I do as an attorney," she said.­


'She fits right in'

At 9:30 a.m., it was the Robberstads' turn to finalize the adoption of 2-year-old Gracie Abeni. Joel and Chandi Robberstad became licensed for foster care in Grand Forks County about three years ago, getting their license the same month of their future daughter's birth.

Judge Joel Medd's courtroom was lively and light-hearted, and the judge even invited relatives and friends to freely move around and use the flash to get the best pictures of this important moment.

"These are kind of fun events and you should record it," he said.

Chandi said she and her three sons had grown close with Gracie during their 20 months together. "She's just as much ours as the boys are," she said.

Joel's attachment to Gracie was obvious by the big smile on his face as he simply described their relationship as "oh, very good."

Medd said it was a good ending to the long adoption process, adding his review of the Robberstads' home study indicated Gracie was a good fit with the family. "This really is a special occasion to put the final touches on the adoption," he said.

After the short hearing, those in attendance applauded as Gracie Abeni Robberstad officially became a part of the family. Gracie seemed to bask in the limelight and grinned during a barrage of photos.


Chandi told the Herald it felt "amazing" to finally be done with the process. "It was one of those things where it feels like it's been short and long at the same time," she said.

Her family fell in love with Gracie right away, she said, but it wasn't until the last six months that it seemed likely the adoption would go through. Chandi said Gracie is a perfect match for the family and has even won over her older brothers.

"She fits right in," she said. "She's got them all wrapped around her little finger."

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to .

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