Thanks to 12 loving families, 16 children were officially added to their existing families last Thursday as the Amarillo area celebrated its annual National Adoption Day at the Randall County Courthouse.
November is National Adoption Month, a celebration of adoption that started in 1984 under President Ronald Reagan when he declared a national adoption week. It later expanded in 1995 under President Bill Clinton to the entire month of November.
The theme for this year's celebration was "Adopted: Wanted, Chosen, Loved." A puzzle and heart icon for the event served as a symbol of families coming together through adoption and "finding their missing piece."
On this morning, a room full of families and their new members sat anxiously amid colorful decorations and refreshments, waiting for their names to be called to make their adoptions official by a judge.
Judge Tatiana Frausto was one of two judges who had the honor of presiding over adoptions throughout the morning at the courthouse. Frausto spoke glowingly of her role in the family event.
"What an amazing way to start my day by uniting these wonderful families," Frausto stated.
Executive Director of Amarillo Angels Gwen Hicks talked about her group's mission and the importance of foster families. The Amarillo Angels is a local nonprofit that provides support and encouragement to assist foster care families in building relationships.
"This is a really special fun day, and we are just happy that Amarillo Angels is a part of it," Hicks said. "The number one thing that families of fosters say that they need is support, and that's why we are here."
Getting children adopted in the area, like every other part of the country, is a collaborative effort involving different agencies and organizations to unite families. A key component in facilitating getting kids to loving families for foster care is Child Protective Services (CPS).
Rebecca Robinson, a kinship supervisor with CPS, was at the event to support many of the children she had placed with family members who were being adopted.
Kinship supervisors supervise families that take children from family members due to various circumstances that have them removed from their primary home. Robinson stressed that siblings are more likely able to stay together if taken in by a family member.
"We try our very best to keep them with families so that siblings can be together," Robinson said. "A sibling relationship is the longest one that most of us will ever have."
Robinson said that there are 483 kids at this time awaiting adoption in the Amarillo region. She also stated that the older a child gets statistically speaking, the harder it is to place them for adoption.
St. Francis Ministries is a nonprofit private contractor that works with the Department of Family and Protective Services to match families with children for adoption. Micah Smith is the director of permanency and reunification for the Amarillo area for St Francis.
"We work with the state to engage communities to get more children into suitable foster homes and adoptions," Smith said.
She also spoke about one of the biggest issues in placing children being the stigma some people believe about foster care.
"There are a lot of myths that children from foster homes have more behavioral issues or have learning disabilities, but kids in foster care are not any different from children in the average population," Smith said. "We are happy to be here working with the community; we are focused on hope and healing for families and keeping kids with families. We want to support that process."
She said that her ministries hold virtual information meetings twice a month to assist people interested in becoming foster families, guiding them through the process and answering any questions they may have.
One of the 12 families that were able to add another loving member to their family on this day was Jon and Amy Moffett.
For more than four years, they have been foster parents. The Moffetts added their fourth family member through adoption to their three biological children with Thursday's adoption. The Moffetts are also awaiting the adoption of a fifth child, which is still in the works. They said they did not intend to adopt again but felt compelled to add to the family by their faith.
"We were just going to foster, but you reach a point where God tells you this is what you are supposed to do," Jon Moffett said, "It has been on our hearts. That is kind of our whole life since we have been married it is all about taking care of children."
The Moffetts encouraged more people to step up and help foster children and spoke about its rewards.
"You hear people that say that they would not want to do this because they would get attached, but the problem is you have to get attached to do a good job for the children," Jon Moffett said. "They deserve this."
All their children but one were present for the adoption, including one who drove from Fort Worth for the special day
Asked about advice on adopting, the Moffetts said that it must be in your heart to do this, but it's rewarding for both the child and the person who embraces adoption.
"This means you are giving your heart up to someone who is not born to you, making it a uniquely special bond," Jon Moffett said.
Foster and adoptive parents are greatly needed. For more information, please go to https://www.facebook.com/SaintFrancisMinistries/.
This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: National Adoption Day helps 16 children join families for the holidays