Alva James-Johnson

Adoptions on the rise in Muscogee County, but more homes still needed

From left to right, Siblings Robert, 10; CJ, 12; Breanna, 17 and Heavenly, 2, formerly of Muscogee County, celebrate their adoption by Sam and Ashley Way of Marion County on Sept. 30.
From left to right, Siblings Robert, 10; CJ, 12; Breanna, 17 and Heavenly, 2, formerly of Muscogee County, celebrate their adoption by Sam and Ashley Way of Marion County on Sept. 30. Special to the Ledger-Enquirer

Fiscal year 2017 is expected to be an extraordinary year for adoptions in Muscogee County, according to officials at the Division of Family and Children Services.

On Thursday, DFCS Communications Director Susan Boatwright said there were a total of eight adoptions finalized in the county from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016. So far, in fiscal year 2017, 27 adoptions have been completed.

The Ledger-Enquirer last wrote about adoptions in November, when there were three children without “adoptive resources” in the county. On Thursday, Boatwright said two of those children had been matched with families who are very interested in adopting them, and DFCS hopes to have all three adopted soon.

“Meaning one child of the three featured is still looking for a forever family,” Boatwright wrote in an email.

In November, the Ledger-Enquirer also published a story about Sam and Ashley Way, a couple in Marion County who successfully adopted three siblings from Muscogee County.

“Everything is still going great,” Sam Way wrote in an email to the newspaper on Thursday.

DFCS Director Bobby Cagle, who grew up in an adopted family, has made adoptions a priority since holding the position. Last spring, he launched an initiative called There’s No Place Like Home, directing resources toward eliminating barriers that hinder the adoption process. At the time, Boatwright said the project had increased the number of statewide annual adoptions from 850 in 2015 to more than 1,000 last year.

Still, the demand for adoptive homes continues, with seven children in Muscogee County currently waiting to be matched with a family, according to information Boatwright provided on Thursday. Forty-six children have connected with interested families and are waiting to finalize their adoptions.

The Muscogee DFCS office started a special Adoption Unit last year to address the need for more adoptions in the area, according to DFCS. Once a child becomes legal for adoption, the case is transferred to the adoption unit, where foster care and adoption workers collaborate on finding suitable parents.

DFCS works with parents toward reunification when children are removed from a home, Boatwright said in an earlier interview. A case-plan is developed through Juvenile Court to try to address parental issues, such as drug abuse. Before the child can return to the home, those issues must be resolved, which happens in many cases, she said.

“But there is the piece of balance in how long a child should remain in foster care before he or she deserves a right to live with a family and have some level of permanency and stability in their life,” she said in an earlier interview. “Typically, we try to work with a birth family over a year or two. And then, if it seems we’ve just given it every shred of hope, then we will move to terminate the parental rights.”

DFCS posts photos and details about children eligible for adoption on a website called “It’s My Turn Now Georgia.” To access the information, go to http://www.itsmyturnnow.dhs.ga.gov

Alva James-Johnson: 706-571-8521, @amjreporter

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