Five families eagerly waited to finalize nine sets of adoption paperwork while gathered in the third-floor hallway of the Ellis County Courts Building on Monday.
The celebration that followed marked a successful second annual National Adoption Day in Ellis County that saw nine children find forever homes.
A set of grandparents, who asked to remain anonymous because the kids are enrolled in local schools, adopted three of those children. The ages of the siblings range between seven and 16 years and all have lived with their mother under the grandparents’ roof for the past six years.
Six months ago, however, both the mother and father voluntarily terminated their parental rights and neither has made contact with the children since September. The grandmother — who herself was adopted at birth — shared that the relinquishment was not a relief and instead seems more difficult because now the family had to transition into an unfamiliar relationship.
“It’s been very difficult to step out of the role of grandmother. It’s very complicated because they will ask if their mother will become their sister. So there’s been lots of figuring that out ourselves,” the grandmother said.
Dana Holt, the adoption director with Texas Baptist Home for Children, has worked closely with the family and touched on what they are going through emotionally.
“Even though it’s in the best interest for the kids, it’s a deep-rooted hurt. That bond between mom and child is cut. Unless you’ve walked it, you don’t get it,” Holt explained. “Termination is hard, especially when it’s in your family.”
When Holt spoke from the perspective of the mother, she was sympathetic and described that society holds a stigma on mothers who voluntarily release their rights.
“It is the bravest decision to ever make,” Holt elaborated. “A woman who is willing and a dad that is willing to make that choice, they are putting the child’s needs above their own desires. It’s the bravest and most loving decision to make. Our society sees it as they gave up, it’s selfish. Society sees it as they didn’t want the responsibility anymore.”
Holt said in most situations a judge decides whether a parent can continue in their role and, in this case, the parents chose a path and made a plan for their child.
The grandmother explained that Child Protective Services have been involved with the grandchildren's' lives for the past six years. When the grandmother got in touch with a local lawyer, it was suggested the family work with the Texas Baptist Home. Once the adoption agency was introduced into the equation, the staff proved to have the best interest of the family. Holt educated the family on how they would be helped by particular services offered by the state.
“You have to know how to ask and what to ask for,” Holt emphasized.
When a family adopts another member, it is called a kinship adoption. The family was required to go through an agency (TBHC) to adopt through CPS. Holt explained the agency works with CPS to make sure all the needs of the family are met. In this process, the child would have more benefits and the state can pay for services such as counseling and tuition for state colleges.
The grandmother said if she and her husband did not have the help of TBHC, “I can’t imagine that we could have made it. I just don’t think we could have. We went from being in our retirement years to empty nesters to starting all over.”
By the time the youngest child graduates high school, the grandmother will be in her early 70s.
“It’s totally all God,” the grandmother said. “I can’t begin to tell you the number of people who stepped up to help us in the beginning. So many people stepped in that God sent. Every day I wake up and ask God, ‘Do you know how old I am. Is this really what you want us to do?’”
On Monday, the family, along with four others, gathered at the courts building and enjoyed a reception put on by CPS staff, CASA, TBHC and Backyard Orphans.
Before County Court at Law One Judge Jim Chapman singed off on the adoptions, Eric Porter, the founder and president of Backyard Orphans, along with other volunteers prayed for the agencies, churches and families involved with each case.
While Porter spoke, he proudly shared, “There were 90 days where zero children were waiting for adoption in Ellis County this year. And currently there are two right now, and we have three or four families lined up to see if they are a good match.”
Jillian Locke, Child Protective Services advanced specialist in the intensive adoption unit, spearheaded the event. She works in a team of nine individuals and covers all outlying counties such as Ellis, Navarro, Kaufman, Collin, Denton, Grayson and Fannin Counties. This past fiscal year, September 2017 through August 2018, the intensive adoption unit finalized 158 adoptions. Under Locke are seven caseworkers that average 15 to 20 children at any given time.
Locke described the adoption day as "amazing," and expressed the importance of the celebration.
"It helps remind our community that important work is being done to protect our most vulnerable citizens every day behind the walls of the courthouse and CPS offices," Locke said. "Our hope is that it raises awareness that there are children that need a loving forever family and that one day there will be enough families that no child is left waiting to be adopted."
Judge Jim Chapman, CPS, CASA, The Texas Baptist Home for Children, The Ellis County Child Welfare Board, Lisa Jackson Photography, Backyard Orphans, The Oaks Fellowship, MaDolly’s Clothing Shop, The Rawls Family, The Berg Family, Kelly Saunders, The Ellis County Courthouse and staff, The Ellis County DA’s office, and The Courthouse Café all played a role in the second annual National Adoption Day for Ellis County.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450