Finding Forever Families in a Pandemic

Photo of the Zoom meeting where Daniel's adoption became official. This blog originally appeared on the HHS website. Learn more about National Adoption Month

When the coronavirus pandemic, hit most of us retreated to our homes. Sequestered with our loved ones we worked and learned together, cooked and ate together, watched a lot of Netflix together, and had family game nights. Many of us rediscovered or came to an even stronger appreciation for the comfort, joy and security of home and family.

But imagine being in foster care, not having a permanent family to help calm your fears and anxiety. Imagine dealing with all that 2020 has brought us without the comfort, joy and security of home and family.

In Cuyahoga County there are more than 2,800 children in care of the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). More than 600 of those children and teens are in permanent custody. We may be practicing social distancing, but none of us goes through this world alone. Every child needs family.

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Families in general are struggling with managing jobs, virtual school, closed day cares, and keeping kids busy. But resiliency has been the key to moving forward with finalizing adoptions.

Resiliency has been essential for 13-year-old Daniel. He first came into custody several years ago and was adopted as a toddler. However, that family did not prove to be permanent for him. He came back into DCFS custody and needed residential treatment. DCFS permanency staff worked with our partners at Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and found a great aunt and uncle who were now interested in caring for him.

“You have become a part of this family … enough that they have decided and you’ve decided together that it’s really not enough that you have a place to live until you’re 18,” said Judge Laura Gallagher, Cuyahoga County Probate Court. “This is permanent, this is what family is. These are people who are going to love you and be there for you and help you when you need help, and celebrate when you’re celebrating and be sad with you when sad things happen, it’s a lifetime commitment.”

“Although it has been difficult during the pandemic, Adoption Assessors have been very creative in completing adoptive placements, scheduling visits with families, and ensuring all of the paperwork required for Adoption Court Packets were filled out and signed by the prospective adoptive parents,” according to Beverly Torres, Senior Manager, Permanency Support, DCFS.

While many other court hearings were put on hold during the pandemic, Cuyahoga County Probate Court got back up and running quickly to make sure children didn’t linger in foster care. They moved to virtual court hearings for adoption finalizations and now conduct both in-person and virtual hearings.

It was during a virtual hearing on October 1st that Daniel was officially adopted by his family.

“I can’t change your past but what we’re doing today is completely changing your future,” said Judge Gallagher. “You’ll get a birth certificate that says the people who love and care for you the most are your legal parents.”

With the help of the courts and families, DCFS permanency teams have finalized more than 90 adoptions so far this year and have 67 children on adoptive placement, meaning children are placed in the home of the identified adoptive family while the adoption court packet is being worked on to submit to Probate Court.

DCFS continues training families who would like to become licensed foster or adoptive parents at our training center which has implemented COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. If you’re interested or have questions, visit our website or call our Recruitment Line at 216-881-5775.

Watch: Daniel Kugler Adoption