SIOUX CITY | A courtroom is not typically a place in which celebrations take place.
Lawsuits end with a winner and a loser. A criminal defendant is guilty or not guilty. Somebody's almost always walking out of that room upset or disappointed.
Set against that usually somber backdrop, a celebration like Adoption Day at the Woodbury County Courthouse becomes an even more joyous occasion.
"It's really like a great big party at the courthouse, celebrating for kids. The courtroom is just full of families. There's just a lot of excitement," said Amber Meyers, who along with husband, DJ, finalized the adoption of three of their children at last year's Adoption Day event.
This year's event, open to the public, is at 10 a.m. Saturday. Celebrated as part of November's National Adoption Month, the event aims to raise awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care. Eight families will finalize the adoption of 11 children during the festivities, which include food, music, games and speakers. Last year, approximately 4,600 children across the nation had their adoptions finalized at an Adoption Day event.
DJ and Amber Meyers decided last year that the event would be the perfect way to officially make Vanessa, Jacoby and Violet part of their family. They could have finalized the adoptions a couple weeks earlier, but chose to do so with other families on Adoption Day.
"We really wanted to make it special for them," DJ said.
Amidst all the festivities, there's still the serious side of finalizing the adoption process. Amber and DJ recalled standing before a judge, taking an oath and answering a series of questions before the papers were signed and the adoption of their children was finished.
But it was part of the joy experienced by a couple that has opened its arms to many children who have needed a home. When the two were married in 2010, Amber had four children, and DJ had one. They've since added five more, all by adoption.
It began with the decision to be foster parents. DJ said friends often told them that they were good parents and that they should become foster parents. The more they talked about it, it made sense.
"We just heard a lot of people suggest it. We said, 'you know, maybe we're being led in that direction,'" Amber said. "It came to the point where the time was right in our lives."
They attended an informational meeting about becoming foster parents. During the training that followed, they learned that they could also add an option that would allow them to adopt foster children in their care if the biological parents' parental rights were terminated.
They became a licensed foster care family in 2014 and have cared for children in need ever since. Eventually, they had the chance to adopt Vanessa, Jacoby and Violet, now 9, 4 and 2, respectively, and celebrated with them at Adoption Day. In September, they adopted Daniel, 7, and Brielle, 5. They'd already had them for three years, so Amber and DJ chose not to wait until this Adoption Day to finalize the adoption.
They won't be at this year's Adoption Day, but the party will go on with several other families celebrating with their children. It's a cause well worth celebrating, Amber said.
"I just don't think people understand there is such a great need and you don't have to be perfect to foster or adopt," she said. "If people are even thinking about fostering or adoption, they can just go and check out Adoption Day."
It could lead to a celebration that lasts for the rest of a child's life.