National Adoption Day: All in the ‘ohana for these ‘Forever Families’

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The courtroom for 3rd Circuit Court Family Court in Hilo was transformed one day earlier this month into a whimsical wonderland for 16 Big Island keiki as they joined their “Forever Families” during an event that also marked National Adoption Day. Their adoptions and guardianships were finalized by the court last month.

From left, front row, Sarah Anderson, Daniel Madrid and Jacky Mena; back row, Kenneth Goodenow, Valerie Grab, Judge Darien Nagata and Judge Jeffrey Ng. Photos courtesy of Hawai‘i State Judiciary.

“We affectionately recognize this day as our ‘Ohana Day to celebrate our youth and our families in our community,” said Family Court Judge Darien Ching Nagata in a press release.

It was the Hilo Family Court’s fifth annual Adoption Day celebration. National Adoption Day was observed Dec. 19 this year.

Families were treated to professional photographs by Sarah Anderson to memorialize the special day. Children received individually monogrammed backpacks filled with blankets, teddy bears and books compliments of Jockey, family board games from the Children’s Law Project of Hawai‘i, gift cards from the Geist Foundation, gifts from the Hawai‘i Department of Human Services, books from the Clinton Foundation and certificates from the Hawai‘i State Judiciary.

Before leaving, children and families enjoyed cupcakes and fresh fruit compliments of KTA Superstores.


Nagata said she was overwhelmed by the emotion that filled the courtroom.

“Many times in Family Court we are faced with tough decisions, conflict and adversity,” she said in the press release. “Today, the courtroom was filled with pure hope and love.”

From left, Laura Knutsen, Nobriga ‘ohana and Judge Jeffrey Ng.

During the proceedings, testimony from adoptive parents and guardians, social workers and guardians ad litem was heartfelt and powerful:

  • “From the day at four months when I got her I didn’t want to let her go.”
  • “Because they are my daughter’s kids and they are my blood and I love them.”
  • “These children need permanency and they are with bio family, and they are thriving in their home.”
  • “Take a look at these kids! These parents took on a lot with this kid and just look at him now. I believe that this is in his best interest”.

This year, the Judiciary was also able to return the Adoption Day proceedings to an in-person event.


“We are thrilled to have our hearings back in the courtroom so that we could celebrate in person with the families. We also did leave the option for parties to appear remotely and have family and friends watch via Zoom to celebrate the joyous event,” Nagata said in the press release. “We look forward to continuing with this yearly tradition and hope to continue to grow this event and provide more and more youth with forever homes.”

Judge Darien Nagata and the Lealasola ‘ohana, who participated virtually.

Teresa Witten of the Department of Human Services, Kenneth Goodenow and Ariane Moniz with the Hawai‘i Department of the Attorney General, Valerie Grab and Jenny Rasmussen of the Children’s Law Project of Hawai‘i, attorney Jacky Mena and Nagata planned the event. Mena and her cousin, Daniel Madrid, provided their artistic vision, design and donations and filled the courtroom with balloon arches and columns, flowers, silky backdrops and drapery — and most importantly the love of all in attendance.

Grab first approached Nagata more than five years ago with hopes to start an Adoption Day event in Hilo.

“When we first proposed holding ‘Ohana Day we never imagined it would grow into the event it is today,” Grab said in the press release. “Thanks to our amazing community sponsors and collaborations with the public agencies that serve our foster children, ‘Ohana Day has become an incredible occasion that celebrates and honors loving families who care for our keiki.”


Nagata said Family Court is honored to be a part of a celebration to raise awareness of the many children in foster care waiting for a permanent and loving home.

“When we can grant an adoption or guardianship for a foster child or a non-foster child, we are happy to provide that child with permanency and a loving family,” the judge said in the press release.

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