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Adoption Day Celebration shifts to online event

Because of the pandemic, the event is available online all month at
adoption celebration gilmartin gavel
Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Robert Rusu, left, helps Jackson Gilmartin, 5, drop the gavel formally finalizing his adoption to the Gilmartin family of Austintown during a ceremony on Nov. 1, 2019 at the Mahoning County Courthouse.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Seventh annual Adoption Day Celebration Event will be virtual for the first time.

November marks National Adoption Month. Each year courts, child welfare agencies and community partners join together on one day to create forever families on National Adoption Day.

It's part of a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 123,000 children across the nation and 15 Mahoning County Children who are “waiting” in foster care for an adoptive family.

Under normal circumstances, National Adoption Day offers communities the opportunity to finalize adoptions, celebrate adoptive families and find homes for children in foster care. Adoption Day here is usually held in the Mahoning County Court House Rotunda.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's event is virtual. Judge Robert N. Rusu, Jr. of  the Mahoning County Probate Court, Mahoning County Children Services and 21 WFMJ-TV will co-host the Seventh Annual Adoption Day Celebration Event online.

“Although this year is a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no way that we were going to let a global pandemic cancel this special event,” said Rusu in a news release. “In the spirit of National Adoption Month, WFMJ will be showcasing the emotional process and final hearing in the Valley’s first virtual adoption which can be seen on and WFMJ’s digital properties.

Jack Grdic, WFMJ general manager, said, "We have been working with Judge Robert N. Rusu and Mahoning County Children Services’ team to bring to light the amazing adoption process and raise awareness of the need for more adoptive and foster families here in the Valley.”

The virtual presentation is available through Nov. 30. Viewers will get to meet an adoptive family, witness an adoption finalization hearing as a local child joins his forever family and learn more about the 15 children in Mahoning County “waiting” for a Forever Adoptive Family.

In Ohio, adoption services are provided by public children services agencies like Mahoning County Children Services. Currently, Mahoning County Children Services has 21 children in the permanent custody who are awaiting adoption. The agency has identified adoptive families for six children.

To learn more about Mahoning County Waiting Children Seeking Adoptive Families, visit

“This is our opportunity to bring attention to the hundreds of local children in foster care and to make a difference in the lives of these children," Rusu said. "If we can connect one child with an adoptive family with this event, it is a success."

The virtual event also features the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office Color Guard and the national anthem performed by Boardman High School Chorale Program students.

Each year, more than 20,000 children (more than 1,000 in Ohio alone) emancipate out of foster care at 18 years old without a permanent family or home.

“Mahoning County Children Services is in immediate and great need of foster homes for children of all ages," said Jennifer T. Kollar, public information officer for Mahoning County Children Services. "There is a critical shortage of licensed foster caregivers in Mahoning County."

Kollar said the agency needs foster caregivers who can accommodate sibling groups, accept emergency placements and provide respite care.

To learn more, call 330-941-8888 or 330-740-2310.