MT. VERNON —
Somewhere in the country, there is a young girl who is struggling with the decision to give up her unborn child, a woman and a man who are waiting for the phone call telling them they are going to become parents, a child who is waiting for the chance to find a home that is safe and loving.
Tiffany Wilson is a young mother who gave up her daughter for adoption. She was 19 years old when she found out she was pregnant. She was living on her own, struggling to pay bills, partying, experimenting with drugs. The father was reluctant, at best, to have any involvement after he found out Wilson had become pregnant, even though he did have to sign consent papers for the adoption.
“Ever since I started having sex, I knew if I got pregnant, I would not have an abortion,” Wilson recalled. “I started out not wanting to know anything about the child. Then curiosity got the best of me and I had to find out and I found out I was having a baby girl. Everything changed.”
Wilson grew up in a single parent home and did not want to struggle to raise a child on her own. She did not want her daughter to be raised in a household where there was only one parent who was hardly ever home because she had to work to support a child. Wilson also knew she was just too young to responsibly care for a child on her own.
“Children should not raise children. I [was] not ready to be a parent. There was no way I could financially take care of her,” she said. “I wanted her to have everything I didn’t. I wanted her to have a mom and a dad... That’s probably the most adult decision I have ever made. I’m thankful for the adoptive family, because they are doing everything I couldn’t do.”
While Wilson said she struggled with the decision to give up her daughter for adoption, she also said she knew it was the right thing to do. She found help through Angels Cove, an organization that assists with adoption proceedings as a licensed adoption agency, among other things.
“I had hope and dreams for her to have a loving family and who could support her. It is the hardest decision you will ever make in your life. She was not meant to be mine, she was meant to save me. She was meant to be theirs,” she said of the adoptive parents.
In addition to the decision of giving up her child, Wilson also had to deal with the stigma of being a woman who was giving up her baby. She had to deal with the dirty looks, the name calling and even one of her peers telling her that if she could “lie on her back and spread her legs,” she could raise a child. Wilson was scared, but she knew she did not want to live off the government, she knew she did not want her child to suffer because she may not be able to provide for her and, ultimately, she knew she had picked the right family for her daughter.
“When you choose a family for adoption, you start out with all these expectations. You want them both to have masters degrees, you want them to make $100,000 a year,” she said. “But I ended up choosing the three most important things to me. I wanted them to have a college education. I wanted her to be taken care of and loved. This family has been above and beyond that.”
Wilson is still involved in her child’s life. She is known to her daughter as her aunt and her mother even baby-sits. She knows one day her daughter will come to her with questions about why she gave her up and is doing everything she can to become a better person. Wilson has her high school diploma and is going to college. She has done a lot of growing up and does not party or do drugs any more. She is holding down a steady job and taking care of herself.
“I don’t ever want her to be ashamed of me,” she said. “I knew it was the right decision. You shouldn’t criticize any mom who puts up their child for adoption. They are trying to act responsible, wanting someone to take care of their child. I love her with everything I have and I would do anything for her.”
On the other side of the adoption spectrum are people like Traci and Dale Burner, of Patoka, who are foster parents. Burner and her husband have four children of their own, but they decided to open their home to Jose. When they found out he had two brothers, Jonathan and Jaxson, who were going to be split up, they opened their home to them as well. The adoption of the three boys was finalized at the end of November.
“After you have the kids for so long, they just become a part of you,” Burner said. “We didn’t get into for foster care for adoption at all. The reason we wanted to get into foster care is because we wanted to be a safe place for [the children]. They just stole our hearts away.”
Burner said that while the boys know who their adoptive mother is and even see her on occasions like birthdays or holidays, she and her husband don’t refer to the three boys as their adoptive children.
“I don’t want my kids to think of themselves as adopted,” she said. “Right now it has been perfect and easy, but you always worry about the void they might have.”
The main thing to remember when opening your home to a foster child is that they are scared, Burner said.
“It just takes a little while and a lot of patience,” she explained. “You just have to reassure them. It’s okay to talk about the good things and the bad things. Just give them lots of patience, love and understanding in helping them fill the voids in their life. Be sensitive to their needs along the way.”
She added that anyone considering adoption should also know that the foster care system is about getting the children back into their own homes, although that is not always possible.
“You can help the kids, but you can also touch the parents,” she said. “It’s not just about the kids, it’s about the home. It’s about fixing the home and some of them can’t be fixed. We desperately need foster homes. We need a safe place for kids to go until they can go home.”
Ellie McCarthy, an adoption specialist with Christian Social Services, said the difference between a private adoption and adoption through foster care is that foster care adoption is for children who have been removed by the state of Illinois.
“Most of the time when we are dealing with adoption, the kids have been in the foster homes,” McCarthy said, adding that in order for a family to adopt a foster child, the child has to have been in the home for a minimum of six months before the adoption process can begin.
So far this year, over 25 children have been adopted through CSS, McCarthy said. There are still about 20 children with a goal of adoption from all around their service area, which includes Washington, Marion, Effingham and other counties around Southern Illinois. McCarthy added some children are placed in homes in which the foster parents are trained to deal with kids who may have problems. Everything is done on a case by case basis.
“We are kind of all over,” she said. “When kids are being placed, we always try to look for homes that are within the same town or within the same area the kids are from. Sometimes, we look at homes that can best meet the kids needs as well.”
Anyone who is interested in adopting through the foster care system must be licensed by the state, McCarthy said. There are also background checks, fingerprinting and home safety checks, among other things, in order to be approved, all of which is done before the child even enters the home. The adoption process is equally thorough.
“It can take six months to a year to complete,” she said, but said the end result is completely worth it. “It’s just kind of a way to right some wrongs and give them a forever home. It provides them permanency and somebody who is able to support them, which a lot of times, is what our kids are wanting.”
McCarthy’s co-worker, Cassidy Beck, who is the CSS development coordinator, said it is important to raise awareness about adoption and that November is Adoption Awareness month.
“We just want to get the word out,” Beck said. “We would love to talk to anyone who might be interested in becoming a foster parent. It’s a lifetime commitment, but it’s pretty amazing.”
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent can contact CSS at 244-0344. For young women who may be considering adoption or need help dealing with motherhood can contact Angels Cove at 242-4944.