Adop­tion by Zoom is fam­ily’s ‘fi­nal­iz­ing’

Process makes cou­ple par­ents to sib­lings they’ve been fos­ter­ing

Orlando Sentinel - - Local & State - By Daniella Me­d­ina

The kitchen in Nathan and Alysha Jack­son’s Cler­mont home is used for more than cook­ing. It dou­bled as the back­drop for Lake County’s first Zoom adop­tion cer­e­mony.

Nathan, 28, and Alysha, 29, went from not hav­ing any chil­dren to get­ting two in just a mat­ter of hours. They have been fos­ter­ing a 1- and 2-year-old brother and sis­ter for 13 months be­fore get­ting the green light for adop­tion this month.

The cou­ple never ex­pected to be­come the adop­tive par­ents of Evan­ge­line Eloie Maria Jack­son and Elias Ni­co­las Kil­lian Jack­son be­cause the main pri­or­ity of fos­ter care is re­unit­ing the chil­dren with their fam­i­lies, they said.

“It was over­whelm­ing be­cause it was fi­nally hap­pen­ing, we’re fi­nally fi­nal­iz­ing this,” Alysha said. “And just feel­ing so sup­ported by our friends and fam­ily, that was a re­ally in­cred­i­ble feel­ing. And think­ing, ‘Wow, af­ter this, our kids

are ours for­ever.’”

What made this adop­tion ex­tra spe­cial, how­ever, was fi­nal­iz­ing it over Zoom with their friends and fam­ily as wit­nesses on Thurs­day, April 23. The cou­ple was even asked by the pre­sid­ing judge to raise their right hands to be sworn in — in the mid­dle of their kitchen.

“They brought the judge on and asked us the ques­tions and had us raise our right hand from our kitchen,” Nathan and Alysha said to­gether fin­ish­ing each other’s sen­tences in a cha­t­room in­ter­view. “And our kids were stuff­ing blue­ber­ries in their mouth while we’re swear­ing our­selves in. A Zoom call with a 1and 2-year-old is crazy, so we just had a lot of snacks for them, keep­ing them busy.”

While Evan­ge­line and Elias were busy eat­ing blue­ber­ries, Nathan and Alysha were in­ter­act­ing with their friends and fam­ily from In­di­ana who wouldn’t have been able to at­tend had the adop­tion cer­e­mony been held in a Florida court­house.

“We don’t have any fam­ily in Florida. We were ac­tu­ally able to have our en­tire fam­ily at­tend, which is huge – that would not have hap­pened if we had got­ten this done at the court­house,” Alysha said. “It was re­ally, re­ally spe­cial to have every­one there to see our friends and fam­ily’s faces pop up and clap.”

The Jack­sons adopted Evan­ge­line and Elias from Kids Cen­tral, Inc., an adop­tion agency in Cen­tral Florida that “re­cruits, trains, li­censes and sup­ports fos­ter par­ents and chil­dren who have suf­fered abuse, aban­don­ment and ne­glect,” ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

Thomas Ranew, at­tor­ney for Kids Cen­tral, said it was great to see so many peo­ple cheer­ing on the adop­tive par­ents — even Judge Richard Sin­gle­tary took the time to show off his grand­chil­dren dur­ing the call.

“It’s just a re­ally swell time,” Ranew said. “This Zoom busi­ness is not as per­sonal as nor­mal, but ac­tu­ally it al­lows a lot more peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate.”

An­other plus for Zoom adop­tion cer­e­monies is the lack of time it takes to set up, Ranew said. Upon fil­ing, adop­tive par­ents don’t need to wait two months or two years — it can all hap­pen in two days.

“In Sumter, I filed a case elec­tron­i­cally on Fri­day morn­ing at about 9 o’clock. At 10 o’clock, I re­ceived a no­ti­fi­ca­tion that it was as­signed a case num­ber,” Ranew said. “At 10:30, I got a call from a judge say­ing, ‘Wanna do it at 11?’”

More than 1,600 kids in Cen­tral Florida are in cri­sis ev­ery day, ac­cord­ing to Kids Cen­tral, and the Jack­sons en­cour­age fam­i­lies to look into fos­ter­ing chil­dren, es­pe­cially in this time of need.

“We have over 400 kids avail­able for adop­tion right now,” Ranew said. “We just can’t find enough peo­ple to adopt them.”

The Jack­sons’ Zoom adop­tion cer­e­mony was the first for Lake County, Ranew said, but there are sev­eral on the books for the com­ing weeks. There have been sev­eral Zoom cer­e­monies in Sumter County as well.

JOR­DAN GREENWOOD

Nathan and Alysha Jack­son fi­nal­ized the adop­tion of two chil­dren Thurs­day in Lake County’s firstever Zoom adop­tion cer­e­mony.

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