Foster Child Reunited With Canadian Family

If Noah is faking that smile, he deserves an Academy Award, never mind a ticket home to Canada.

Grinning like a boy promised an ice-cream sundae to go with his brand new puppy, Noah Kirkman looks as pleased as a 12-year-old can be, snuggled up in a restaurant booth with his grandpa.

The photograph, of Noah and Michael Heltay, was taken just hours after an Oregon judge ruled the boy can finally return to Canada, almost two years after being seized by child welfare authorities in that state.

“His lawyer told us he’d have to break the news to Noah, that he’d have to go home — I’m sure they expected tears,” said Phyllis Heltay.

“All Noah said was, ‘Great, can I take my bike with me?’ Then we were together, grinning, hugging, kissing and crying.

“Noah couldn’t stop smiling.”

The photograph, snapped by Phyllis as she sat across from her grandson and husband, is compelling.

To believe Oregon authorities, Noah should look miserable.

This is the same boy that did not want to go home, according to the lawyers, social workers and state judge who worked in unison to keep Noah away from his family and country since August 2008.

Even the local media expected tears: On Friday, when judge Kip Leonard grudgingly ruled the Calgary boy must return home to live with grandparents, one Oregon media outlet exclaimed, “the boy doesn’t want to go”.

“He told me he’d like to stay in Oregon and have his mother and grandparents come to visit,” Leonard reportedly told the court.

For such a dejected, unhappy child, that’s one heck of a smile.

Of course, even if Noah was in tears at the thought of leaving his foster home after a two-year incarceration in state custody, it would be a moot point.

That officials in Oregon would even measure the wishes of a child is bemusing.

Children are fickle creatures, easily swayed by comforts, rather than long-term best interests.

Video games, junk food, or like Noah, having access to all-terrain vehicles, can lure a kid to a bad decision.

Children lack wisdom: Ask a 10-year-old to choose between a cheeseburger and a plate of spinach, or cartoons and homework, and you know the answer.

Noah, on top of being a typical kid prone to bad decisions, is a child with special needs — one of his challenges being extreme anxiety over change and uncertainty.

And yet the State of Oregon believed Noah’s opinion was vital.

In any case, his smile shows how wrong Oregon authorities can be — and that’s on top of their astounding decision to keep a Canadian boy away from his dad, mom and sister for two formative years.

By now, Noah’s story is well known. Picked up by Oregon cops while on vacation, he ended up in the custody of child welfare officals, because his dual-citizen step-dad doesn’t have legal guardianship.

Noah’s special needs means he has a file with Canadian social services, and his mom, Lisa Kirkman, is an outspoken marijuana activist with a criminal record.

It all added up to a tangle of red tape, and a system unwilling to release Noah to a family with questionable values and possible difficulties caring for the boy.

Even after his Calgary grandparents were ruled fit guardians, the judge and state officials dragged their heels for six months.

That a Canadian child belongs in Canada seemed lost on Oregon.

Finally, judge Leonard said Noah can return home to his grandparents, when the Oregon school year ends.

In Calgary, Lisa Kirkman said Noah’s imminent return is far from the end of this frustrating tale.

While she’s mentioned lawsuits before, Kirkman avoids the discussion now — she says until Noah is back, she’s keeping her mouth shut.

“I’m livid, but I’m treating my anger the same way I’m treating my grief and anxiety — I’m not allowing it to take over,” she said.

“Until he’s back in my arms, that’s my only focus.”

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