Forever Families, Adoption Awareness
By Denise Shannon
Togetherness, feeling loved, consistency, stability, learning different skills, succeeding with all that one does while growing, all of these things can revolve around having a family or being part of a family. Did you know that November is National Adoption Month? Let’s take a look into adoption and read about some personal experiences from local people of how adoption has been a blessing for them within their lives.
National Adoption Month is very important for children who are looking for forever homes. It is important to bring awareness to this situation. According to Missouri Department of Social Services, there are 1,200 children within the State of Missouri who are waiting for their chance to become adopted. Did you know that for someone to have the chance to adopt, they do not have to be married? A person can be single, married, or divorced and still have the option to adopt and it can more than one child can be adopted at a time, especially with siblings.
“Sibling groups and older youth often have a more difficult time finding a forever family and we really encourage prospective adoptive parents to open their hearts to these fantastic kids who are longing to have a loving family to call their very own. Every child deserves a family’s love and support for the rest of their life. But if you’re not interested in adoption, there are so many other ways to help support kids in foster care right here in your own community: tutor or mentor a child/youth, provide respite care, donate needed items (laundry detergent, bedding, school supplies, etc.), provide special holiday help, make a monetary donation for new shoes, haircuts, prom clothes, yearbooks, or extracurricular activities, the list goes on and on. It’s easy to find something do to help make a difference in the life of a child in foster care,” said Rebecca Woelfel, Communications Director, Missouri Department of Social Services.
In 2006, State of Missouri decided in 2006 to come up with a website for foster care and adoption. They created the Heart Gallery Project, which show portraits of the children in foster care who are waiting for adoptive families. If anyone is interested in fostering or adopting they can go to this website, https://moheartgallery.org, and this provides photos and information on fostering and adoption.
In Clark County, the statistical view of adoption, as of August 2019, shows that two adoptions had taken place around this time and there was one child that was waiting to be adopted.
Adoption and fostering can play a part in helping people who cannot have children on their own by allowing them to have a family. This also gives parents, who have lost their parental rights, the option to provide their children with a loving and caring home with another family who is willing to help them. In order for a child to be eligible for adoption, the court has to get rid of the child’s parent’s rights, otherwise the child could not be placed for adoption.
Adoption can be a big step. If someone has thought about putting a baby up for adoption within the State of Missouri, there are certain laws, rules, and qualifications that should be understood, and followed. The birth mother of the child can agree and give her consent to place the baby up for adoption two days after the baby is born, and the father can give his consent to the adoption any time. These consents are to be hand written and executed in front of a judge or a notary public, but, in case neither of those was available, two adults can sign as witnesses. The people adopting cannot sign nor can the attorney during the process at that time. A child that is 14 or older, should give their consent to the adoption unless they are not mentally capable of making the decision on their own, then a judge would step in and decide.
According to the State of Missouri, these are requirements in order to adopt: “The person trying to adopt needs to be the age of 21 or older, do a child abuse/neglect check and a criminal record check which includes getting fingerprints taken, have good health which includes both being mentally and physically healthy, income has to be steady, go to free training and assessment process, need to be able to work with the professional team they assign one to, need to be able to talk about your thoughts and ideas, and whoever adopts has to be willing to work with the children’s family.”
There are different expenses that should be considered, such as paying for counseling services for the parent and child for the appropriate amount of time before and after placement takes place, the expense for pre- and post-placement studies that take place, the expense of paying reasonable legal expenses, court costs, travel and other administrative expenses that connect to the adoption, the expenses for food, shelter, utilities, transportation and clothing expenses that are within the norms of the community where the birth mother lives, and lastly, expenses for any other services or items that the court finds reasonably necessary.
In order to become an adoptive parent, this is a specific training requirement called Specialized Training, Assessment, Resources, Support and Skills, (STARS) program.
The length of the adoption process depends on the legal status of the child, whether the family is licensed, whether the family has had an approved home study or not, how quickly a child is placed, what the family is considering such as with age, sex, race, and emotional, and or medical problems. There is a minimum of six months supervision prior to the adoption finalization.
After an adoption takes place, the local Children’s Division Office provides the family with an Adoptive Subsidy Worker that helps to provide resources for the family to help them continue on with help if they should need it after the adoption.
Here are some personal experiences that have been shared about adoption within our area. One comes from a couple that lives here in Kahoka. Jena and Jason Church have decided to tell us about their experience with adoption, its process, and how it’s been a blessing for them.
Jena and Jason began their journey by speaking with some local people, Carl and Rovene Hamner, from Kahoka, who have fostered for a long time and who are emergency placement now for teens and boys. After they had discussions with those two, they chose to start with the local Children’s Division of Family Service and worked with Laura Babington here in the Kahoka Office. They began their search online for information on their kids. They saw their kids for the first time on the Missouri Heart Gallery website.
“I know this sounds weird, but you can search these sites for the right age group that you are looking for, race, background, even how many kids you are wanting to bring into your home, and there are all kinds of information on this website about fostering and adoption.”, said Jena.
Jena and Jason have experienced good things by giving a child a forever home. But, when it comes to the bad things with the process, Jason stated, “it can take a long time. We were fortunate and had already inquired about our kids before our classes were complete but, couldn’t go any further until we were done with our classes. We were also told at that time that we would not be a good fit for the kids.”
“Our littlest girl had been placed with us from the time she was 10 weeks old, so from the beginning, we felt like she was a part of our family. Although the process to adopt her was different than the first three because when she came to live with us DFS was still in the process of reunification with one or both parents. This is the hard part but, it can also be an amazing part. Although ultimately, we got to adopt our little girl, as foster parents sometimes we must give them back to their parents. This is hard, but when you see how much their parents have changed and overcome to get the chance to have their children back in their lives it is really gratifying. As a foster parent, you get to love those kids like your own and let them know that they are lovable and then their parents do amazing changes and then you know that it’s going to be ok for those kiddos to go back to where they belong. You also must go through a home study where they DFS office sends a qualified worker to your home and asks a lot of very personal questions about your life and your family life. At times we felt a little attacked, but these people have got to make sure that they are sending the kiddos to a safe environment.”, said Jena.
Jason explained the courses and process needed. “We took our classes in Hannibal because our local office wasn’t going to offer the STARS course again for quite a while. We took a STARS Class and then an additional Adoption class, both were 12 weeks long, one night a week for three hours. We were very fortunate though, because we finished our classes in January and met our kids for the first time the first weekend in February. Their foster Mom at the time was having knee surgery and didn’t think she could handle them, so by the end of February they were living with us full-time. By the law, you must wait 6 months before you can officially adopt your kiddos, but we wanted to make it a little more special and waited until National Adoption Day on November 21st. Our two older kids were in foster care for 1,420 days and our little one was in foster care for 963 days. Our little girl was with us the entire time before her adoption day finally came around. She is also special because she still gets to see her biological Mom and Grandma. She is loved by many besides just her brothers and sisters. We also have had the pleasure of raising a teenage foster child. It was rough with her and she ended up leaving our home, but since then we have made amends and would love to adopt her as an adult. We hope she knows that we are her forever home even if we never actually adopt her.”, he said.
Jena and Jason were asked if they feel they were blessed and Jena replied, “ Well, of course, we are blessed, we have had this opportunity to bring more kids into our family and give these five kids a forever home, where they are loved more than they know and we let them know that their parents will do anything we can in our power to fight for them, (the way parents should). I want to add that sometimes the kiddos that get adopted or fostered do have emotional issues, some have chemical issues, but if you adopt through the State, they (the State) is always there to help you. They can set you up with professionals to help you get through the tough times and the social workers are always there to listen and help you if you need it. People are always telling us how awesome we are, but, the awesome people are the social workers and the Children’s Division Workers as a whole. They make it possible to bring kids and families together even when the kiddos have given up hope in finding a forever home.”
Here is another personal experience of how adoption is a wonderful thing from the view of an adoptee. Adoption has been a blessing for one local man, Matt Shannon from here in Kahoka. He was adopted at the age of three days old. Later on, in life, he had found out that he was adopted.
This question was given to Matt, “Has Adoption been a blessing for you and can you explain how?” “Oh yes, it’s been a blessing. I can’t stress that enough. Without mom and dad, Lord knows where I would be. I can guarantee you one thing, I wouldn’t be here with my wife and kids or with the love and support of my family. Being adopted to a loving, caring family was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me. I owe them so much that I can never repay. From my dad’s work ethic to my mom’s endless love and support, I will be forever eternally grateful. From my experience, I believe that is more socially acceptable now than what it was when I was growing up.”, Matt said.
Thank you, to Jena and Jason Church and Matt Shannon for sharing your experiences about Adoption to help bring awareness to Adoption with us here at The Media it has been greatly appreciated.
For more information about adoption here are some references to look at: Adoption.org,consideringadoption.com, Missouri Alliance for Children & Families.org, Missouri Department of Social Services, Adoption, Becoming an Adoptive Parent, Missouri Adoption Heart Gallery, Missouri Children’s Division Management Report, and Missouri Heart Gallery.org.