All In The Family: Mass adoption brings 12 into new homesPublished 2:00pm Sunday, September 29, 2013
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As of late Friday morning, 12 children ranging in age from three to 14 were able to write a new last name on upcoming school assignments, as their adoptions to foster parents were finally complete.
A room full of smiling kids and parents filled the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Government Complex Friday to finalize and celebrate their official adoption to foster parents they have been living with for months now, in some cases years.
A balloon release at the courthouse symbolized the children’s step into new homes and their release from the Department of Human Services. Each child, parent, regional director of the DHS and other staff members assigned to a particular child or children released a red balloon to mark the jubilant occasion.
Louis and Sheila McDaniels already have a 28-year-old son. Now, they have a 16-year-old daughter, Daisha McDaniels. On Friday, Louis and Sheila couldn’t hold back their enthusiasm while Daisha seemed immune to the celebratory gestures. After all, she has lived with the McDaniels family for the last four years. To her, it’s just another day. “I love to listen to music and read,” Daisha said.
Dixie Williams of Bogue Chitto was granted custody on Friday of two boys, 3-year-old T.J. and 6-year-old Talyn, obviously more interested in the cake being passed around than the ceremonial pomp of the day.
Keith Jackson and Robin Diffrient of Brookhaven, added two daughters to their family Friday, Rachael Bailey Jackson, 10, and Rebekah Alexis Jackson, 8. The two girls will join a nuclear family bigger than the Brady Bunch, with three other foster children in the home, and four other older siblings. Both girls’ middle names are their last names pre-adoption, said Diffrient.
“I have been blessed with four boys. But, I always intended upon having a girl and naming her Rachael Rebekah,” said Diffrient.
Robin also mentioned she was adopted herself. This is not unusual according to Dorothy Jacobs, the regional adoption supervisor at the Department of Human Services. “Many of the parents were adopted as children. They tend to know the importance of adoption firsthand,” Jacobs said.
Also on Friday, Timothy and Christina Warner from Monticello added Jamarione, 6, and Latonio, 4, to their family.
In total at Friday’s adoption, one family adopted three children, two sets of parents each added two children to their family, and one family added one child to their home.
All parents have been put through extensive background checks and have had to meet with social workers weekly to prove to them that they are suitable parents for the children. When a child is adopted, foster parents get the first opportunity to adopt the child.
Potential adoptive parents must go through a number of steps to be eligible for adoption. After submitting an application to the Mississippi Department of Human Services, those wishing to adopt will be evaluated to determine if the individual or couple meet the minimum requirements as dictated by the MDHS. This includes length of marriage (in many cases), sufficient income and age to name a few.
Those whose application is approved will be invited to attend a series of five weekly training sessions that cover topics such as explaining adoption to a child and how to manage behavior.
The next step on the road to adoption is a series of interviews with a social worker designed to determine if the potential parent is ready to adopt and what type child would best fit into the family.
Finally, a social worker will meet with the potential parents on a weekly basis, if the DHS determines the child can live at their homes.
Before Jacobs was sent to Lincoln County on special assignment in 2010, adoptive services were generally under the purview of church agencies and organizations in the area. Now that there is an official channel for potential foster parents to go to, there have been close to 50 adoptions since 2010, today’s event not included.
At the ceremony, Jacobs was able to add an even dozen more kids to her list, all of them in homes with parents that have been heavily screened and will provide a stable, loving environment for the children.
“I want the community to know about this event for one reason: I want as many people to know that there is a need in the community for adoptive parents to step forward,” Jacobs reminded.
Sandwiches and other refreshments were available for the families at Friday’s event. If that were not enough, a giant cake awaited the new parents and adopted children, symbolizing the success of the efforts of Human Services in Lincoln County. Dionne Evans, the director of DHS for Lincoln County, took on cake cutting duty near the end of the ceremony; the inscription on the cake identified the mass adoption as the fourth one in the region since 2010.
“It’s not just a job. It’s a calling. I’ve been with the agency for 35 years and I couldn’t even think of where I would be working if not here,” said Jacobs.