November is National Adoption Month, a time of raising awareness of the need for adoptive parents and celebrating adoption.
"During the month of November, families across America celebrate National Adoption Month—a time where we bring focus to forever families across the country to celebrate the efforts that child welfare agencies have made to achieve permanency for children in foster care," said Garrett Pierce, Gordon County Resource Development Case Manager at the Gordon County Department of Family and Children Services.
According to Pierce, 169 children from DFCS Region 1 have been adopted since Nov. 1, 2016; the region includes Gordon and surrounding counties.
"The primary goal of DFCS is to achieve permanency through reunification with birth families," said Pierce. "However, when that is no longer an option, adoption becomes the primary case plan."
For Gordon County resident Vicki Watson and husband, Jeremy, the road to adoption began five years ago, when they became foster parents. During that five-year period, they have had about 15 foster children in and out of their home, staying anywhere from a week to several months.
Fostering is what brought about the adoption of the Watson's five children: Arriah, 8; Jax, 5; Delilah, 4; Piper, 4 and Silas, 3.
"We were originally foster parents," said Vicki Watson. "We had fertility issues and we decided that's where God wanted us to goto adopt through foster care. We decided to open our home to foster children in hopes that we would eventually be able to adopt one day; God led us to adopt five."
Watson said their journey to adopting began with fostering three sisters who, after an extended stay, temporarily returned
to their birth parents, only to go back to the Watson home later.
"The three girls, Arriah, Delilah and Piper, are a sibling group; we got them and they stayed with us for nine months," said Watson. "In between having the girls and them going home, we did get one of our sons, Jax. A little later, the girls went home to their birth parents, and a few months after that, we decided to take in another baby, Silas, who is now our son. The same month we took in Silas, we found out the girls' family was not following their plan, so they came back into foster care and we decided we did not want them in another foster home. We loved them and felt that they were ours so they came back to us the same month."
This opened the door for the Watson's to adopt the girls and followed this by adopting the boys.
"The birth parents of the girls decided they wanted us to adopt them, so they signed over their rights," said Watson. "A year later, we finally adopted them. Jax, who came to us at two and a half, was supposed to be a quick adoption, but he ended up being the last to be adopted and we finalized his adoption earlier this year. So it's been a really long journey, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I love all my kids like I gave birth to them."
Watson suggests fostering before adopting. "There's a lot of parents that get into this just to adopt and do not want to foster first, but you have to open your heart to these children," said Watson. "And you have to love them with everything you've got in hopes that they can learn to love, not only you, but other people and to eventually become healthy adults."
And helping her children to become healthy adults is Watson's goal.
"The children have adjusted well," said Watson. "All the kids love each other, and as much as they fight like normal brothers and sisters do, they also have each other's back like normal brothers and sisters do. To me, our kids are perfect for me and my husband. They are happy kids; we enjoy going places and we camp all the time."
Watson offers advice to anyone who thinks they might want to foster.
"There's a lot of people that tell me they don't think they could foster because they'd get too attached to the children, but I tell them that's what you're supposed to do-to teach them that attachment," said Watson. "Not everybody can do it but if you have the heart, you should help. Everyone can help in some way."
For more information on fostering and/or adopting, call 1-877-210-KIDS or visit www.fostergeorgia.com