Eagle Village provides positive assistance with adoption processes
HERSEY — Many children and teens are looking for a family to call their own, and November as Adoption Month in Michigan highlights the need for adoptive families and those individuals who have found a new family.
Eagle Village, located in Hersey, houses a number of youth of various ages looking to be adopted and many who have been adopted, but are temporarily residing at the organization due to some emotional and behavioral issues.
According to Kathy Lockhart, the foster care and adoption coordinator at Eagle Village, there are 3,000 foster children available for adoption in Michigan. Three hundred of those children do not have an identified family, she said.
Paul, 15, is a resident of Eagle Village and is currently looking to be adopted by a loving family. He enjoys the outdoors, especially fishing, and might like to hunt if he can build his aiming skills. He also likes to build forts and go sledding in the winter.
"I'm looking for a family who likes to be outdoors and maybe who lives by a lake or near the woods," Paul said. "I'd like to take camping vacations with them, be able to get along well and maybe have movie nights. I also need help with reading and spelling."
He wants families who are looking to adopt to know he can help out around the house, but needs assistance with school, and hopes they can provide him with a happy home.
Eagle Village strives to assist families with the process of foster care to adoption, which gives the opportunity for a family to care for a child for 18 months. If parental rights to the child are terminated, then the foster family is considered as an adoptive family. A straight adoption route is available, but usually is a longer process.
"We have currently 31 kids in our adoption program and we've adopted out 18 this year," she said. "Our hardest kids to adopt out are teens, usually from 10 on up. People want to adopt younger kids more than older kids. I think people think by the time a child is a teenager they're already set in their ways, but there are a lot of teens that would love to have an adoptive family and would do well. I think they'd just need a period to get used to each other and we try to do that for them."
The first goal for the foster care system is to reunite the children with their biological parents. However, that option is not always possible, though adoption by other family members is.
Brian, 14, was adopted with his two sisters by his aunt and uncle at the age of 12. He was placed at Eagle Village by Department Heath and Human Services.
"I think I have more opportunities living with my adoptive family," he said. "I feel like I could make a better change in the world than if I was with my biological family."
Brian enjoys watching movies, playing games and rollerskating with his new family, and in the future has the desire to pursue a career as a veterinarian or marine biologist.
"I think if I were to have a family later in life, I probably would consider adoption because I liked being adopted," Brian added. "But before you adopt, make sure to hang out with the boy or girl and get to know them, so you can make the best family possible. Don't just look at a picture."
For parents seeking to participate in the foster care to adoption process, Lockart said Michigan waives the fees if adoption takes place.
"The cost of being a foster parent, letting these children live with them and going through that route is beneficial," she added. "Parents pay a court filing fee, a change of birth certificate fee and other small fees, but that's reimbursed back to them once they adopt the child. If people only knew how easy and inexpensive it is, there might be more adoptions."
Adopted at about 9 years old, Scarlet, now 15, was adopted by her biological grandparents with her brother and sister. She's learning skills including gardening and canning from her grandparents, and feels positively about adoption, especially when it involves direct relatives.
"As long as you get adopted into a good family, you're going from probably a worse place to a better house," Scarlet said. "Being adopted by my grandparents was beneficial because I already knew them, they knew me, and they already know my past personally."
For couples looking at adopting youth, Scarlet has some words of advice.
"Just give them a chance," she said. "Even if it's a child with specific issues that you wouldn't normally think of adopting, you never know what's going to happen. They could be the best child you could adopt.
"Because the adoption process is so long, people have to try and have patience. The parents should get to know the kid if they're adopting somebody they don't know. It's a long process, but it's a good process."
Lockhart believes adoption is a positive way to increase one's family and make a difference in the lives of local children.
"If parents have the desire to really, truly add children to their family, there are a lot of children in the state system that are eager to have adoptive homes," Lockhart said. "It's a process to get licensed and match the child, but if you have that desire, foster care to adopt is the way to go. Usually you can tell within a short period of time if the children are going to connect with parents. We look for matches that will be successful and we're striving for that.
"There's a great, great need out there. We love to have families call us and we love to match children. Our No. 1 goal is to find homes for these children."
The names of the youth have been changed to protect their identity