Alabama sees increase in adoptions during pandemic

Alabama sees increase in adoptions during pandemic

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Despite COVID-19 altering several aspects of the foster care and adoption process, Alabama saw a record number of children find a forever home during the pandemic.

“I think the pandemic has kind of taught us that family is so important and so I think people saw that need,” said Jill Sexton, clinical coordinator and southern region team leader for Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections (APAC), a program of Children’s Aid Society.

According to Sexton, in the fiscal year 2020, there were 814 foster care adoptions in Alabama, an all-time record for the state. That number is also up from the previous year’s record of 731 adoptions.

“To have that many kids achieve permanency with that year of uncertainty and the pandemic is just an amazing feeling,” Sexton said. “To be able to have a hand in one of them, let alone a majority of them.”

Sexton said since April 2020, 2,117 families have called the Alabama Department of Human Resources to inquire about either fostering or adopting a child. That number is 1-866-4-AL-KIDS.

“That number increased a lot,” Sexton said.

Of the 814 children who were adopted during the fiscal year 2020, APAC helped match 60 kids with 40 families.

One of those families was the Carroll family from Phenix City, Alabama, who successfully adopted their now 14-year-old son Josiah on Dec. 17, 2020.

14-year-old Josiah Carroll being embraced by his adoptive family.
14-year-old Josiah Carroll being embraced by his adoptive family. (Source: Amber Carroll)

Josiah is now the older brother to three younger sisters and has two loving parents.

“He has really completed our family,” said adoptive mother Amber Carroll. “I’ve always wanted to be a parent of a boy, having three girls, and I’ve discovered that even teenage boys can be sweet and cuddly.”

“We try to give him all the love he could have missed out on throughout his tough beginnings and try to teach him things he hasn’t been taught,” Carroll said in a written statement. “I’m blessed for him to be here with us.”

Carroll said they found Josiah on the Heart Gallery Alabama website, a frequently updated website that includes pictures, videos and biographies of children in need of a home. She describes the moment the family saw him as “love at first sight.”

The pandemic did delay portions of the adoption process for the family, for example, their initial meeting was done via skype, but none of that was going to get in the way of Josiah becoming a part of their family, Carroll said.

Carroll encourages other families who are interested in adoption to consider it and consider adopting older children who might eventually age out of foster care.

“Teenagers need love too. Everybody wants a baby, but these kids that are older, they really do need a home,” Carroll said.

“These children that are 14 and older that are being recruited for, want to be adopted,” Sexton said. “They have that desire. They’re seeking a family, connections for life, and so it is very important to get them adopted.”

Right now, there are over 300 children in Alabama’s foster care system that are still in need of a forever home.

Prospective parents must receive certification before they can be placed with children, either for fostering or adoption.

In Alabama, a pre-adoption course called TIPS, or Trauma-Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence, is required. The 10-week, 30-hour curriculum prepares families to make an informed decision about becoming an adoptive family.

During the pandemic, adoption training was done mostly virtual. APAC is offering the classes both in-person and online right now.

For more information on how to start the process, you can visit APAC’s website.

The Alabama Department of Human Resources also has information for families interested in foster care.

AdoptUSKids is another state resource for families looking to adopt or foster.

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