Hundreds of Mississippi children recently adopted by their “forever families” will gather with their new parents and siblings on Saturday, November 10, at a Statewide Adoption Celebration hosted by the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.
The annual event, which highlights Mississippi’s successes in connecting eligible foster children to adoptive families, will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sunnybrook Children’s Home on Sunnybrook Road in Ridgeland. Adoptive parents and children will share the day filled with refreshments, games and entertainment alongside their adoption caseworkers and other child and family advocates. MDCPS adoption staff and private agency/government partners will also be recognized.
In celebration of the 647 adoptions finalized by MDCPS during the past fiscal year, Gov. Phil Bryant proclaimed November 2018 as Adoption Awareness Month in Mississippi. The recognition coincides with a national adoption month sponsored by the federal Children’s Bureau. During the previous fiscal year (July 1, 2016 – June 20, 2017), MDCPS finalized 302 adoptions for Mississippi children who the state’s youth courts had determined could not be safely reunited with their birth families. But almost 1,500 children eligible for adoption lingered in the foster care system. MDCPS set as a top priority for fiscal year 2018 to identify and address unnecessary delays and legal obstacles which had been stalling timely adoptions for the eligible infants, children and older youth.
“This is one of those great days where you can see the results of a relentless pursuit of permanency for these wonderful children – and the adults who opened their hearts and their arms to care for them,” said Commissioner Jess Dickinson, who will also recognize MDCPS adoption staff members who finalized the most adoptions over the past year.
“We see so much heartbreak and hurt in our work, but this is the other side of the picture. Seeing these happy faces is what makes the tough work all worthwhile. When a child has found a safe and permanent place to grow up, when they have made a connection with an adult who will love and care for and protect them, it is a great day.”
Also this weekend, more than 200 Mississippi churches of all denominations will join in a time of group prayer on Sunday, November 11, to remember and prayer for children who do not have parents to call their own. Mississippi has more churches participating in the international Orphan Day observance than any other U.S. state.
Deputy Commissioner for Child Welfare Tonya Rogillio, who led the agency’s push for facilitating more adoptions credits a strong working relationship with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office as well as a “relentless” focus by MDCPS supervisors, frontline caseworkers and adoption staff for more than doubling the number of adoptions finalized in 2018.
“Our staff regularly reviewed the progress for every single child whose plan was for adoption to make sure nothing was holding up the process. These children deserve to be safe at home, with their families in a forever home,” Rogillio said. “We didn’t take no for an answer if there was something we could do to make it happen for these children. We will continue in this relentless effort as we move forward.”
Currently, there are about 400 foster children who have been legally freed for adoption by a county court. Many of those have already been matched with an adoptive family but others are still awaiting their forever families. Almost 1,300 more children and youth in MDCPS care have a permanent plan for adoption.
To be eligible to adopt a foster child in Mississippi, a prospective parent must be:
- Legally single persons or legally married couples
- At least 21 years old
- Have income and insurance sufficient to meet the additional needs of an adopted child
- Meet accepted emotional, intellectual and psychological standards to be good parents.
Several training requirements, a home study and background screening must be completed to be licensed as an adoptive parent prior to being paired with a child in Mississippi foster care system. MDCPS caseworkers and adoption specialists work closely with the adoptive parents and the foster child or children to determine when the family is ready to adopt and what type of child would best fit into the family. MDCPS also hosts both a virtual and a physical Mississippi Heart Gallery profiling many of the foster children currently seeking a forever family. The online site, which features photographs and biographical information for each eligible child, can be found at: https://www.mdcps.ms.gov/mississippi-heart-gallery
For more information on adoption in Mississippi, call 1-800-821-9157 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about how to become a foster or adoptive parent is available on the MDCPS website at: www.mdcps.ms.gov.