These stories are not the norm. When some people think of adoption, their thoughts usually turn to infants or toddlers being picked out of an orphanage. Often left out of this joyful equation are older children, who have been placed in the system for a period of time.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 20 percent of all adoptions in Oklahoma from October 1, 2005 to September 30, 2006, were children ages 11-18. Approximately 78 percent of adoptions were with children ages 1-10.
As Jane Eneff, SWIFT Adoption Supervisor for Area 6 (which includes Tulsa, Osage, Washington and Creek counties) explained, "It is much harder to locate families to adopt older children because it can be harder to parent a child if he (or she) comes into a family as a pre-teen or teenager."
In addition, sibling groups are also more difficult to place because some families are not able to adopt more than one child at a time, yet for the children's sake, keeping sibling groups together is important.
When parental rights have been terminated, children are placed in DHS permanent custody foster care and await a permanent home for adoption.
Eneff said "we act on the children's behalf" to place the children in adoptive homes. The real issue depends on the child and the adoptive parents. Eneff said some older children might have trouble adjusting, such as not wanting to call their adoptive parents "mom" or "dad," and some continue to have contact with their biological families. In addition, today, the "kids have more of a say in it. After age 12, they sign off on the adoption themselves," Eneff said.
The goal for DHS is to place children who are in permanent DHS custody with adoptive families before they are 18 years old, for at 18 the teen is no longer under DHS custody. Although, they might be eligible for continued support as needed. It is crucial for these children to be in a permanent home to attain the stability, trust and love that adoptive families can give. So often children are moved from foster family to foster family, and issues of trust bear down on these youth.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Web site, the mission of the SWIFT Adoption Services is: "secure an adoptive family for every waiting child for whom adoption is the goal. Children can be assured a permanent adoptive family through early identification, assessment and child preparation; aggressive recruitment and preparation of prospective adoptive parents; the elimination of legal and other barriers to adoption; and the adequate provision of supportive services."
Eneff said that often children may be placed in homes within a few weeks, but the process will be in the court system for about six months before an adoption is final.
She also explained that anyone older than 21 years old may adopt--singles, legally married, and legally separated or divorced. "It's a delicate balance to come into a new home," Eneff said. "Most all children will come from biological families where there was serious neglect or abuse. We provide for their behavioral needs."
The main issue with these children is trust--it has not been a part of their lives.
As a result, these children will want to test adoptive parents more; still, Eneff said the rewards of adoption are worth it.
Just ask the Edmondsons and Logsdons.
All in the Family
"Every single one of them has been a gift," Kristy Edmondson said of her children, three of whom she adopted from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Edmondson and her husband, Brian, have three adopted children, ages 12 and twin 16-year-old girls and one biological 5-year old child.
"We found out that two girls who were wanted to be adopted might be going into a group home, and since it seemed a good match for us, we began the process." She explained how they had dinner with the girls first and two months later their mom relinquished her rights for them.
"It took about a year before it was all finalized," she explained, adding that it wasn't all that easy. "We took on these teenagers who already were in situations without much guidance. It was really difficult."
Those difficulties grew and developed as the new family learned to adjust.
"They were cutting class, testing their boundaries, so we took everything from them and their room: sheets, clothes and more," Kristy said. She said they even were given uniforms to wear to school. Soon after, the girls got everything back, but it was not until they began trusting and improved their behavior.
Kristy said, "I told them, 'when you came into my home you had my love and trust. Now you have my love but not my trust.'" There was a lot of drama, but now it's easier.
"I am a very protective mom; I'll do anything and everything to keep my kids safe. I will always be in their business and do all I need to do to protect them." Like most parents, she wants them to be individuals, but she wants to be part of their lives and, she has had fun "doing girl stuff" with them.
In addition, she said she and her husband often reiterate to the girls that they are theirs, and they will not be going to any other family. As Eneff said, the trust level is important. "We have the same struggles that every family has--good times and bad times, but we push through those times. We just keep blending new members," she said.
For Becky and Scott Logsdon, the greatest joy they have with their six children is, as Becky explained, "watching them grow and change from what they were like when we adopted them to what they are now." The Logsdons adopted a sibling group of four three years ago--ages 3, 5, 7 and 8--and now have added two more siblings, a 1-year-old and an 11-year-old.
"I grew to liking the idea of adopting a sibling group because as the children get older, they are more difficult to place," Becky said. Within three weeks of their initial inquiry with DHS, they learned of a sibling group of four children. "Within a week they were in our home," Becky said.
She chuckles when she said their ages at that time were 3, 5, 7, and 8, and while this would be a monumental challenge to most couples, she and Scott were just thrilled that they slept through the night and were all potty trained.
"It's not like bringing home infants--it all went smoothly," she said. Becky is so grateful to DHS for all the assistance given to them during this process.
Nine months later, Becky said they heard about a baby brother to this same sibling group was in need of a family, and soon after took him into their family when he was five months old. "He could sleep through the night," Becky laughs. Then, not too long after that, while finalizing the adoption of the fifth child, Becky heard of another sibling to this family needing to be placed.
"Within 18 months, we had six children," she said with a very happy and content voice. "No. 6 was 5 weeks old."
Like Kristy, Becky has had difficult times, but the joys these children have brought Scott and her outweigh the troubled times.
"Comparing where my children were--their demeanor and behavior--to now, is remarkable. They were timid, scared and intimidated by the world, but now they are productive little members of society. Their attitudes have changed by just us loving them." Becky said for her and Scott, the greatest joy is watching them grow and take on some of our traits--both the good and the bad. She said competing with their memories of their lives before adoption is still challenging, especially their fear of being sent back to their biological parents.
Becky and Scott continue to reassure them that they are not going anywhere. That never fails to light up their little faces.
Both Kristy and Becky have great family and church support systems, and their own strong religious faith has helped them throughout the adoption process.
"We have had lots of prayers through all of this, and I see how God has worked to set up my life and their lives to be available for us," Becky said. "All events coincided--the day they were ready, so was I. God planned for us to be together."
Kristy said, "We have always put everything in the Lord's hands. They [her girls] are like a wrapped present that was given to us."
"So many people have fears of the unknown," Becky admitted. "Adopting these older kiddoes, they just want so much to be part of a family that will love them and provide security in their lives. I just them 'you're forever at home with us.'"
Anyone interested in adoption information can call Jane Eneff at 581-2033 to inquire.
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