The three boys had absorbed so much sadness and confusion in these brown and gray corridors.
It took a moment Friday morning to grasp that the usually staid officers of the family court were eager to share this day’s refreshing joy.
“C’mon up and get your picture with the judge,” one of the officials said.
It was adoption day.
Eleven-year-old Isaiah, just days before Christmas, was no longer a foster child.
He was joining his new brother, Josh, 12, who had made the same leap just before Christmas a year ago.
He was joining 11-year-old Tony, the first of the three all now adopted by Loretta and Keith Davis.
The boys, wearing white shirts and ties, clustered with mom and dad and grandchildren while cameras clicked inside the Family Justice Center at 26th and Holmes streets.
They were all Davises now.
“They feel safe,” Loretta Davis would say later. They have a home, a family — “things that belong to them.”
Vince Burke, who came to know the family as Josh’s court-appointed advocate volunteer, relished watching Josh smile so broadly.
A year ago, when Josh’s years of bouncing in and out of the family court system had finally come to his adoption, he had sat with Burke in a quiet moment after the celebration.
“He asked me, ‘Do I have to come to this court ever again?’ ” Burke recalled.
Josh’s trail through abuse and neglect chronicled in the court had led him through so many homes, residential facilities and foster homes that he wasn’t sure of the count.
“Twenty-six?” he said. “Twenty-seven?
“I needed to get out of the system. I needed to blend in and bond. (But) people weren’t patient. I’d get in trouble and they’d send me back.”
His rescue, like Tony before him and Isaiah after, was brewed by a Lee’s Summit couple who just needed a little time to get up the nerve.
“Actually,” Keith Davis offered, “I was the one holding us back.”
He’s an autoworker at Ford’s Claycomo plant. She is a hairstylist with her own shop in south Kansas City. They couldn’t have children of their own.
They already had parenting experience. They had raised a cousin of Loretta’s as their daughter.
They’d also been the guardians of a child they took in through their church, Greater Pentecostal Temple in Kansas City, Kan.
Then came that February day in 2010 when a regular customer came into Loretta’s shop with his four boys to see the barber.
They were foster children, he told her.
“He said, ‘It’s something you might want to look into.’ ”
The thing is, Loretta and Keithhad
been looking into it.
“I saw those kids,” Loretta said, “I and thought, yes, we were ready now.”
They weren’t intimidated by the backgrounds of their prospective foster children. Each time, Loretta said, she was sold by the child’s picture.
One by one they added each child, first as a foster child for several months.
The Davises came into these boys’ lives “like a miracle,” Burke said. “Too good to be true.”
As Josh’s CASA volunteer, Burke had been meeting with him regularly for eight years.
He knew how hard it was to secure good role models for boys in the system.
Rhonda Meyer knew almost immediately that the Davises were exactly the kind of homemakers so desperately needed in a system overwhelmed with children in need.
Meyer happened to have known each of the three boys the Davises would take in through her volunteer work reading to children in residential care.
“You could tell they were genuine and realistic in how they interacted with the child,” Meyer said. “They were patient. You could tell they expected a lot out of the kids.”
She has stayed close to the family, watching the boys as they grow toward their teen years together.
Here they are talking about NBA basketball teams and Nerf gun battles. Their school days are reliable. They’re talking about going to “K-State” and “Mizzou.”
They’re comfortable, Meyer said.
“This gives them a chance to be kids.”
The way the process works, by the time they get to the court for the adoption hearing, everyone knows the answers to the questions rattled off by the petitioner’s attorney.
Are you prepared? Are you financially capable and in good health to make a long term commitment? Are you committed to love him and care for him as your very own?
Yes, Loretta and Keith each answer to these and more questions. Yes. Yes. Big-smiling yes.
And the commissioner — the “judge” — is eager to grant their wish.
The Friday morning adoption dockets give the court a chance to breathe.
“The rest of the week,” the attorney, Mike Mann, said, “is all about abuse and neglect.”
Outside in the brisk air, after one more round of family pictures, the formalities give way. Isaiah undoes his silver tie while Tony, buoyant with energy, circles his brother.
Isaiah gives chase, playfully whipping at him with the tie.
But the Davises soon round them up. It’s time to get back to school.