They’re called “forever families,” and on Saturday, eight of these families adopted 17 children at the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe as part of National Adoption Day.
Judge Kathleen Sloan presided over the adoptions, most of which were groups of siblings.
Crystal and Jon Williams of Overland Park adopted four siblings: Savannah, Alexa, Layla and Matthew. Placing a large group of siblings can often be difficult, and several of the children have special needs. One has cystic fibrosis, and another has pervasive developmental disorder.
“We just were blessed with the means to support a big family, which is exactly what both of us wanted. We thought, ‘What better way to do it than to give a home to four kids that clearly would have issues finding a home?’ ” said Jon Williams.
After the proceedings finished in the courtroom, Judge Sloan asked everyone to give the Williams family a standing ovation.
The children, who range in age from 2 to 7, were the first ones the couple considered, even before they had gone through the mandatory “Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting” class and the required home study. For nearly a year before the adoption, the kids lived with the Williams.
“They start with weekend visits, and even after the first visit, it was like the house was empty when they were gone,” said Crystal Williams.
When they got married, Crystal and Jon Williams both knew they wanted to adopt. Crystal grew up with an older sister who had been adopted from the Philippines, while Jon was raised hearing sad stories about the orphanage that had been near his childhood home in Abilene, Kan.
“The majority of our families have a passion for parenting and really are called to do this,” said Chad Anderson, president of KVC Behavioral HealthCare in Kansas, which has a contract with the state for adoption placement. “These are families who don’t get a lot of accolades.”
There are currently 177 children in Johnson County who want to be adopted. Thirty of them do not have someone currently trying to adopt them. According to a statement from Gov. Sam Brownback, in the state of Kansas, there are 389 children without an adoptive resource.
KVC has placed 1,750 children in adoptive homes in Kansas since 2005, Anderson said. The organization mainly places children between the ages of 8 and 18.
For sisters Angelina, Maria and Rebecca, the situation was a little different. They were in foster care in California for several years before being adopted in Kansas in 2007. In 2010, they were removed from that adoptive home because of “substantiated abuse,” said their new adoptive mother, Kimberly Harrison.
Harrison, who lives in Bonner Springs, was the girls’ karate instructor and godmother at the time.
“At my last (adoptive home), I was praying every night that she would find me and come rescue me, and that I was like Cinderella,” said 11-year-old Rebecca about Harrison.
Harrison had promised Angelina that if anything happened to their adoptive home, she wouldn’t allow the girls to go back into foster care with a stranger. So when the girls were removed from their adoptive home, Harrison took them in.
The girls have lived with Harrison for just over two years while they navigated legal hurdles and paperwork.
“I don’t think a lot of kids go through what we’ve been through,” said Angelina, who is 16.
For 15-year-old Maria, it’s one more thing to be thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner this week. Neither she nor Angelina could sleep the night before the adoption, and Maria made sure she put on waterproof mascara for the big day.
“It’s the best thing anybody could ever ask for,” Maria said.