EATON — A special celebration held on Monday, Nov. 22, celebrated National Adoption Month and the people and families who help many children find their forever homes.
“November is National Adoption Month, and we weren’t able to do a lot last year because of COVID. So we wanted to do something. We do a really high amount of adoptions in this county, given the size that we are, so it is a celebration,” Preble County Juvenile and Probate Judge Jenifer Overmyer said last week. “For our staffs — the juvenile non-probate court because both are part of adoptions — and JFS, and then some of the families, just to celebrate adoption and show appreciation for everybody that’s involved, including biological parents.”
According to Overmyer, 2020’s numbers were down slightly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “But we were open the whole time and still did them, and we did some, actually, on Zoom, on iPad. We had — I think it was a first grade class — watch it via Zoom. Because they were so excited about it and wanted to share with their with friends at school.”
“It truly is the best thing we get to do,” she said.
Following the finalization of an adoption, the children get to ring the courthouse’s Bicentennial bell and each child gets to take home a little bell, according to Overmyer, who says they do both agency and non-agency adoptions.
“An agency adoption would be one where JFS, Family Services, Children’s Services, they’ve removed a child in the juvenile court proceeding. The child’s been found to be abused, neglected, dependent, and there’s a case plan. Where parents don’t complete the case plan, and kids can’t or shouldn’t be returned turned to the parents. So they go through that process then become in the permanent custody of the agency and eligible for adoption,” Overmyer explained. “Any other adoption really would be just the non-agency. Like a young mother that is going to let her great-aunt’s cousin adopt the child. That you know, is a non-agency thing.
“It’s obviously hard for parents to get to, but a very noble, honorable thing sometimes. If a parent wants to try, they’re going to give them all the services to try, but then sometimes, sadly, we still have a lot of drug issues and the timeline for truly getting clean off drugs sometimes is a lot longer than the timeline to get kids out of the system — and kids deserve some closure,” she added.
“It just sometimes doesn’t work and that moving around is never good. I mean, the removal, no matter how bad the situation generally is, is still traumatic for kids and then to move again, and again, is not a good thing,” Overmyer said.
“It’s just neat that they can finally have forever homes and you know, I tell the adoptive parents — I have a very serious conversation with every adoptive parent. They come in my office and we talk off the record and I say, ‘you know’ — and I know they know it — ‘you understand this is for keeps you know, you can’t give her back. You can’t give him back. They’re gonna be teenagers. They’re gonna, you know, wreck your car, they’re gonna get a speeding ticket, they’re gonna do whatever — and you can’t you can’t give them back. You understand that?’ And they smile, with these huge smiles and say ‘we understand.’”
“We’re just thankful for everybody in the process,” Overmyer said. “Biological parents, foster parents, Probate Court, Juvenile Court, Job and Family Services, the CASA program — everybody. There’s a lot of people involved in this process, and it’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty good process and it’s sweet when we finally get to this point. And it’s Thanksgiving. We’re thankful for them,” Overmyer said.
Preble County Commissioners proclaimed November National Adoption Month in Preble County last week. The theme for National Adoption Month was “Engage Youth: Listen and Learn.”
According to the proclamation, more than 16,000 Ohio children live in foster homes or other out-of-home placement settings and more than 3,000 of those children and youth in foster care are waiting to be adopted.
More than 1,200 of the children are 13 and older, and the children age 13 and older awaiting adoption have been in foster care for an average of 1,683 days (4 years, seven months,) according to the proclamation.
The proclamation noted, “247 of those children will turn 18 in the next year and are at risk of transitioning out of the children services system without a forever family. Older youth need permanent lifelong relationships and meaningful connections to supportive adults to reach their full potential. Youth are never too old to be adopted by forever families and adoption enriches the lives of both children and the families who welcome them.”
According to the proclamation, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, along with public and private child caring agencies throughout the state, work diligently to provide safe, stable, permanent homes for Ohio’s most vulnerable children.
“It takes 100 percent heart to foster and adopt in Ohio,” it continued.
Commissioners went on to “encourage all Preble County citizens to continue to open their hearts and homes to our children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.