Find­ing love in for­ever homes

County cel­e­brates adop­tive fam­i­lies, fos­ter par­ents

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­

It’s that time of year again — chil­dren are mak­ing their wish lists for Santa Claus as their fam­i­lies are busy ar­rang­ing road trips, mak­ing ho­tel reser­va­tions or book­ing plane flights in hopes of be­ing with loved ones for the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day.

While Thanks­giv­ing is a time for peo­ple to give thanks in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of all that they have, oth­ers wish they had a fam­ily to not only cel­e­brate the hol­i­day with, but also loved ones who they can call their own.

Na­tional Adoption Day is a col­lec­tive ef­fort to raise aware­ness of more than 100,000 chil­dren in fos­ter care who, on av­er­age, have to wait nearly three years to be adopted into per­ma­nent and lov­ing homes. Since its in­cep­tion 17 years ago, the an­nual event has made the dreams of thou­sands of chil­dren come true by work­ing with pol­i­cy­mak­ers, prac­ti­tion­ers and ad­vo­cates to fi­nal­ize adop­tions as well as cre­ate, con­nect and cel­e­brate for­ever fam­i­lies, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Adoption Day web­site.

In honor of the 17th an­nual oc­ca­sion, the Cir­cuit Court for Prince Ge­orge’s County in Up­per Marl­boro held a cer­e­mony Nov. 17 to cel­e­brate the fi­nal­iza­tion of nearly 60 adop­tions of chil­dren since the be­gin­ning of the year. More than a dozen new and re­turn­ing adop­tive fam­i­lies at­tended the cer­e­mony, which fea­tured spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tions and guest speak­ers.

“To have an op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in this and find joy in the work that we do ev­ery­day is im­por­tant,” Prince Ge­orge’s County De­part­ment of So­cial Ser­vices Di­rec­tor Glo­ria Brown Bur­nett said in an in­ter­view. “It is a long process and it’s some­times a frus­trat­ing process for fam­i­lies. So when we have an op­por­tu­nity to bring it to clo­sure like this, it’s im­por­tant. It makes my heart proud and it helps us to stay mo­ti­vated on why we do the work that we do.”

“This is my heart be­cause I am an adop­tive par­ent,” said As­so­ciate Judge Bev­erly J. Woodard, who adopted her daugh­ter through the so­cial ser­vices de­part­ment 25 years ago. “As a sin­gle par­ent, I did it and I’m just fully sup­port­ive of adoption. It’s been ev­ery­thing to me and I think it’s meant the world to my daugh­ter.”

For Woodard, the adoption process was quite a chal­lenge. Woodard, whose daugh­ter was seven months old at the time, couldn’t of­fi­cially adopt her un­til the age of 3.

“You al­ways have to re­spect the rights of the bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents and some­times that’s a long process. They don’t nec­es­sar­ily agree,” Woodard said.

Woodard said adoption is so im­por­tant be­cause ev­ery child needs to feel loved and needed. There’s no such thing as be­ing too old to be part of a fam­ily — it’s a beau­ti­ful thing to see peo­ple of all ages find for­ever homes, from the ba­bies to the adults, she said.

“It’s def­i­nitely spe­cial for us,” said Paul Wil­liams, fa­ther of three bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren who adopted a baby girl with his wife. “I think it put some things in per­spec­tive be­cause a lot of these kids need us. They need some­body to take them in and hope­fully take them down the right path and guide them in the right di­rec­tion.”

Af­ter wait­ing a year to adopt their 2-year-old daugh­ter, An­gel, who was born pre­ma­ture, Wil­liams said he and his wife are start­ing their life all over again.

“We just fell in love with her,” said the Up­per Marl­boro res-

Lau­rel res­i­dents Don­ald and Lisa Wicks stand with their adop­tive daugh­ter, 22-year-old Cather­ine Sanders, dur­ing a re­cep­tion for Na­tional Adoption Day on Nov. 17 at the Cir­cuit Court for Prince Ge­orge’s County in Up­per Marl­boro. The Wicks fam­ily...

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