El Paso County Commissioners approved a Proclamation honored adoptive families, staff and organizations supporting adoption and foster homes at their regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 17, with a Proclamation.
Also Tuesday, the annual Adoption Excellence Awards were announced at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) virtual ceremony for National Adoption Month. The awards, given each year by the Children’s Bureau of HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF), recognize individuals, families, and organizations who have demonstrated excellence in making contributions to providing permanency for children in foster care. El Paso County DHS employee Kervin Torres was one of six individuals to receive the national honor this year.
“It is a real joy when you know your staff is making such huge differences in the lives of children and families. It is important that all children have permanent homes, even though adulthood. We never stop needing the support of family,” said El Paso County Department of Human Service Executive Director Julie Krow.
President Gerald Ford recognized National Adoption Week when he was in office. It later expanded to a month of recognition. It became a collective national effort to raise awareness in the 1990s.
“El Paso County Department of Human Services, with its many private, community-based and non-profit partners, plays a vital role in maintaining and increasing citizen involvement in adoption so that waiting children can find stable and permanent homes,” said Commissioner Cami Bremer as she read the Proclamation into the record. “It is with great thanks that we recognize all El Paso County adoptive parents and the many dedicated adoption professionals who work to connect foster children with loving families.”
Dawn Bechthold and Jacqueline Blueitt have adopted three children. They shared their story at the meeting.
“We are thankful for our team, including DHS. Everyone was compassionate and kind,” Bechthold said.
She encouraged those thinking about adoption that it can be a roller coaster, but adoptive parents are not alone. Staff explained everything through the long process.
“The best things in life are worth waiting for,” Bechthold said.
So far this year, there have been 82 adoptions with 21 of those children aged 10 and older.
“I’d like to thank our adoptive families, our DHS staff and the supportive services in the community,” said Commissioner Stan VanderWerf, who co-sponsored the Proclamation.
There is currently an active search for adoptive families for 24 El Paso County children.
“Covid-19 has impacted adoptions this year,” Krow said. “In March through May of last year, there were 30 adoptions. This year in the same time frame there were 13 adoptions.”
After the courts transitioned adoptions for completion via video for many cases, adoptions increased again, with some completed in-person. One good impact, Krow explained, is that video adoptions allowed family and friends who otherwise would not have been able to attend because of distance to be part of the monumental event in these young lives.
The pandemic also changed the annual appreciation event for adoptive parents and their children. On Saturday, nearly 20 families drove past DHS staff holding homemade encouraging and cheerful signs at the Citizens Service Center to pick up bags of small toys and treats.
It was small way to show support to adoptive families, Krow said.
“I can’t think of a job that is more important that raising kids,” said Commissioner Mark Waller. “It is a lifetime commitment.”
Video from the Commissioner meeting and the Adoption Month Proclamation is posted online, or click on the YouTube icon on the County website.