Health and Family Services Cabinet
Adoptive families recognized at reception
Three-year-old Jeremy Holland is thriving with his adoptive family. The independent preschooler plays on a soccer team. He fits right in with his three older sisters and charms both family and acquaintances with his winning personality.
But at the time of his birth, doctors weren’t sure baby Jeremy would live to even leave the hospital.
Born cocaine positive and with congenital syphilis, Jeremy was abandoned at birth. He entered the state’s foster care system immediately.
“When he was 3 days old, we got a call from his caseworker, who asked if we could take him,” mother Patty Holland said. “Three days later they said we couldn’t pick him up, because he was going to die.”
Patty spent every moment she could at the hospital with Jeremy. Then the family got some wonderful news. He was healthy enough to go home with them.
“He was 11 days old when we took him home,” Patty said. “We thought, ‘this child is meant for our family.’ “
Patty and her husband, Ken, first fostered Jeremy and later adopted him into their Covington family. He joined sisters Amanda, 16, the Hollands’ birth daughter; and adopted daughters Ferreh, 9; and Terreh, 8.
Holland said the couple trained themselves how to help Jeremy and set goals for his development. “We became his advocates,” she said. “We dealt with things as they came and just got educated. There is nothing that we can’t deal with.”
Now, “Doctors are constantly telling us how well he is doing,” Holland said.
For giving their children a stable, loving home, the Hollands were one of 16 families who received “Forever Families” appreciation awards from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services last week at a Frankfort Country Club reception. The families are from each of the cabinet’s 16 Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) regions. The Hollands represent the Northern Kentucky Service Region.
“All adoptive families provide an invaluable opportunity for Kentucky’s children,” cabinet Secretary James W. Holsinger Jr., M.D., said. “DCBS staff chose these 16 for their outstanding dedication. By opening your hearts and your homes to these children, you have truly made and will continue to make an enormous difference in their lives.”
The “Forever Families” awards were established in 2003 to recognize parents from each region for providing support to other adoptive families and furthering state adoptions in their communities. Most families have adopted sibling groups, older children or children with special needs. Many of the award-winning parents are active in their local adoption mentoring programs.
The reception was part of Kentucky’s Adoption Awareness Month, as proclaimed by Governor Ernie Fletcher. The cabinet will recognize the difference all adoptive families are making for their children and promote adoption all month.
Photos and biographies of the 16 award-winning families will be displayed in the Capitol through Jan. 1.
Kentucky’s number of public adoptions continues to rise. There were 902 this year. In 2004, there were 724, and in 2003 there were 606.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded Kentucky more than $1 million in bonus money for exceeding its adoption goals for 2004.
The federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 requires all states to move children into a permanent home faster rather than letting them languish in foster care. Eighty-five percent of this year’s adoptions were foster parent adoptions.
“The cabinet has significantly reduced the amount of time a child spends in foster care,” said Children and Family Services Undersecretary Eugene H. Foster, Ed. D. “The families we’ve honored, as well as our devoted staff, have contributed to that success by stepping up recruitment efforts on the local level. Word of mouth has been our greatest advertisement for parents to explore the possibility of adoption.”
Holland has done her part to promote adoption, even to strangers she meets at the doctor’s office. A resource group she was involved with made business cards with the cabinet’s phone number and contact information for adoptive families to distribute to inquisitive parents.
It came out of necessity, she said. “People are always asking, ‘How did you adopt these kids?’ People seem so interested when they see you with your kids. And I’ve also talked to other families who have been referred to us through their friends.
Holland said she’s met many people who have harbored an interest in adoption for years but never act on it until they meet another adoptive family.
“When people see families actually taking care of foster and adoptive children, they think, ‘I can do that too.’ “
Holland, who works for the Covington Independent Schools system, said the support she gets from community resources and DCBS staff help accelerate her children’s growth.
Terreh and Ferreh express themselves through art therapy. Their drawings have been featured in two galleries, most recently at the cabinet’s “Young Artists in the Making Art Gallery – Come See Our Creative Kids Shine,” display at Covington’s Frank Duveneck Arts and Cultural Center.
Jeremy’s outlets are his physical activity. In addition to soccer, he enjoys jumping on an indoor mini trampoline. It’s not just fun, it’s therapy. Jeremy was born with a heightened sensory awareness.
“People wonder why we have a trampoline in the living room, but it’s good for him.” He jumps on it and gets input back from it. It’s the same way with water. He loves baths; they are calming to him,” Holland said.
Holland said she learned that for children coping with sensory issues, “It is like going up a dark alley, all alone. His actions could be looked at as a behavior, but it is a response to how he feels.”
Patty and Ken are also help other adoptive families learn the ropes. They are mentors through the Resource Parent Mentor Program. Patty leads preservice training for parents just beginning the adoption process.
Holland said she wishes people could see that the children waiting for adoption “are wonderful. Lots of people think that just because they come from a bad home or had a bad upbringing, that they are also bad. I don’t want that to be the myth they believe.
“These children want to blossom,” she said. “They want to do what is right. They want to please you. All it takes is somebody to lift them up and let them shine.”
To learn more about adoption, log onto www.chfs.ky.gov/snap. Or call the cabinet at (800) 432-9346 to request an information packet.
Award winners from each of the cabinet’s 16 regions and their hometowns are as follows:
Barren River, Scottsville: Jack and Ruth Trent
Big Sandy, Van Lear: Harold and Lori Underwood
Bluegrass Fayette, Lexington: Willie and Betty Howard
Bluegrass Rural, Harrodsburg: Paul and Mary Anna Welch
Cumberland Valley, London: Jim and Liz Lewis
FIVCO, Olive Hill: John and Donna Stamper
Gateway/Buffalo Trace, Morehead: Gary and Judy Gulley
Green River, Henderson: Donald and Eltrander Floyd
KIPDA Jefferson, Louisville: Robert and Annette Bowman
KIPDA Rural, Eminence: Bill and Cathy Fogerty
Kentucky River, Jenkins: Scottie and Jamela Billiter
Lake Cumberland, Somerset: Michael and Camie Meece
Lincoln Trail, Elizabethtown: Kevin and Amy Smith
Northern Kentucky, Covington: Ken and Patty Holland
Pennyrile, Princeton: Mickey and Marilyn Walls
Purchase, Murray: Thomas and Diana Warren
Note: Most families will consent to media interviews. Call Beth Crace at (502) 564-6786 or Anya Weber at (502) 229-6528 for contact information and short profiles of the families.