Abby Novotny would have missed her first day of class to attend her formal court adoption if not for her school, which turned the occasion into a field trip with her fellow students.
The 10-year-old has been with adoptive mother Anne Novotny for three years already and it was time to make it official. Instead of having Abby miss one of two special days, Anne thought it would be a great idea to have Abby’s 24-member class attend the adoption.
“Abby felt like a princess. She was so thrilled,” said Anne. “It was a very exciting a day for her. We had a countdown calendar. To see her friends there, she almost cried. She was so overwhelmed.”
Anne explained that before Abby came to live with her, she didn’t have friends at St. Coletta Day School of Milwaukee, but the school for children with special needs has since been very helpful in facilitating friendships for her.
"They are really like a second family," said Anne. "She was pretty significantly delayed when she came to live with me, and the school has been so instrumental in helping to bring her up to speed. She has friends in the classroom."
Anne knew that inviting Abby’s classmates wouldn’t just make Abby ecstatic, but it would also help the children attending gain new experiences. The school administrator, Bill Koehn, agreed.
"When we realized that the family wasn’t going to be here on the first day, we were like why not? That would be a great way to start the school year," said Koehn. "You have everyone there supporting Abby and cheering her on. We can all remember the day that Abby became Abby Novotny and how exciting that was."
Anne, a social worker, also has two other children in Abby's class who are adopted, eight adopted children in total, and one 30-year-old biological son. She's been a single mother since right before adopting her first child, but says it's okay because she feels it's her life calling.
She adopts all of her foster children who aren’t able to return to their homes because she thinks it can be traumatizing to move to another home yet again.
"I’ve taken my job home with me," Anne explained. "I will always adopt them. It was just a no brainer. We were already a family, but it was a huge deal in Abby’s eyes."
When the judge finally pronounced Abby as Abby Novotny, Anne said the first thing she did was turn to teacher and ask, “Does the name tag on my desk say Abby Novotny?”
Her teacher assured her that it did.