As part of efforts to commemorate National Adoption Day, the Arkansas Department of Human Services and the Pulaski County Court held a celebration in honor of the 13 children and their newly adoptive families.
Officials gathered with families at the Juvenile Justice complex in Little Rock in a celebration which included cake, balloons and many smiling faces. The DHS says 690 children from state foster care have been adopted since the fiscal year began in July. Christy Erwin is a director of Project Zero, a nonprofit whose goal is to reduce the number of foster kids to zero by placing them in loving homes.
“There are 500 kids in Arkansas who are waiting for a forever family. And I feel personally responsible for them, and I know many of you do,” she said addressing families, Judges and staff from the DHS Division of Children and family Services. “It’s our job to help find a forever family for them.”
Pulaski County Judge Wiley Branton spoke about the need for adoptive parents while acknowledging that the responsibility of taking on a child is no easy task. Judges do all they can to try to help families, he said, but they can only do so much:
“Our first responsibility is to try to fix broken families. And we do try to get children returned to their families if at all possible. But for a variety of reasons that doesn’t always occur,” he said.
But he said adoption enriches the lives of everyone involved. Among new families at the celebration were Stanley and Gladys Avery of Camden. They’re adopting 13-year old Dylan Cantrell.
“We’ve been knowing Dylan ever since he was 6 years old as a foster child. And each time he would go somewhere we was always his support [people]. In October, I believe, of last year, he was in Monticello in a group home. He wrote a letter [saying] he wants to come home,” said Gladys.
Dylan’s wishes: “A house with lovely parents and for people to feed me and have fun.”
The Averys have been foster parents since for nearly 20 years, taking care of about 15 kids. Gladys said she wants Dylan to focus on the future and not dwell on his past.“As he always said he wants to go to college and get a degree.”
She said she wants him “to know how to...act...in response to life as it is.”
After the ceremony 690 balloons were released to signify the number of children who’ve been recently adopted. The thirteen kids and their new families then went back inside to finalize their adoptions.