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Navigating the adoption process with Orchard's Children's Services

Posted at 11:41 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 06:02:25-05

GRAND RAPIDS — Twice a month, FOX 17 features kids in Michigan’s foster care system with our Forever Home series. We also often field questions about how the process works and requirement you need to meet to become a foster or adoptive family.

Dana Wright, an adoption resource consultant with Orchard’s Children’s Services, sat down with us to walk us through the process as we highlight a West Michigan family who is in the process of adopting a teen featured on FOX 17.

Wright said there are more than 300 children waiting for an adoptive family today in the state of Michigan right now. Those numbers are proving to be overwhelming.

“We don’t have enough foster homes, so when there’s not a foster home available, unfortunately, youth have to be placed in a group setting.”

Those are the children our Forever Home series focuses on. Most of them have been in a group setting for more than two years and in the foster care system for much longer.

Wright said, “I think some give up and lose hope and don’t think that it’s possible to be adopted.”

That’s exactly why the Holmes family in Howard City wanted to adopt Caraline after seeing her story on TV.

Caraline’s adopted mother, Barbara Holmes said, “We really feel like we’re the best parents for her.”

The first step towards adoption is getting in touch with the child’s adoption agency. They’ll get your information, pass it along to the child’s team, and invite potential parents to an orientation.

“It’ll break down some of the experiences these kids have had, how that impacts them and who they are today,” said Wright.

Wright notes, Its important to have an open mind from the beginning.

“You may hear about abuse and neglect situations that may be very difficult to hear about, hearing how kids respond hearing how kids react.”

Parents can take all that information in and decide if they want to proceed. If that answer is “yes,” you’ll fill out an adoption application.

Then, the home study process begins.

Wright said, “We’ve got trainings, then we’ve got background checks, and then you have home visits from someone who is coming in, making sure you’ve got enough space and that the home is appropriate for the child to be in.”

Once the state approves a foster care and/or adoption license, parents can start attending ‘meet and greets’ with a handful of youth up for adoption.

“You play games, you engage with them and see if you really hit it off with somebody, “said Wright.

If there’s a match, the group can meet one-on-one. Since the Holmes family knew they wanted to meet Caraline specifically, they skipped right ahead to that step.

Barbara Holmes said, “We knew from the moment that we met her that she was our child.”

The group can get to know each other for several one-on-one outings, before kids are allowed to start overnight and weekend visits.

Wright said, “Some transitions are shorter, some are longer. It just depends on the youth, how they’re feeling and how they’re processing all this happening.”

The entire process is driven by the child and their needs, so if a youth feels most comfortable in only a single-parent household, or they’d be better off without other kids in the house, their agency does their best to make it happen.

“We want them to be successful and in order to be successful, they have to be comfortable where they’re going,” explained Wright.

If parents want to proceed, they’ll have a minimum 6-month ‘”foster to adopt” period before signing official adoption papers.

It’s a day, the Holmes family can’t wait for come May, 2020.

Barbara Holmes said, “Adoption for us has been an amazing experience and allowed us to offer that love and support to a teenager, that is receptive to that and longing for it.”

It’s also a big relief and new beginning for everyone involved.

“We’re happy that child’s got his forever home and that he or she has a place to be for the rest of their lives to call home, “said Wright.

Wright said that even though these kids have been through a lot, you don’t need to have a psychology degree to be a good parent. There are also plenty of resources to help families work through any hurdle they encounter.

One big misconception about adoption is that it’s expensive. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Orchard’s Children’s Services, families adopting through the foster care system are only required to
pay for court and document fees, which often comes to around $200.

If you’d like to learn more or start the adoption process, contact Orchard's Children's Services.