Matching children with families

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
On Nov. 6, the Madison County commissioners proclaimed November as Adoption Month: (front row, from left) Robin Bruno, Barb Otto, Julie Harris and Melissa Nunamaker, all of Madison County Children’s Services; (back row) commissioners David Dhume, Mark Forrest and David Hunter; Steve Kaifas, director of Madison County Job & Family Services.

(Posted Nov. 10, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Madison County Children’s Services spent over a year searching for the perfect match for Jason. Four months into living with his adoptive family, Jason is earning all A’s and B’s in school. He is thriving.

“He doesn’t seem like the same kid. It’s all because he found a family who would not give up on him,” said Melissa Nunamaker, adoptions worker.

Just like the families they find, the Children’s Services staff operates on can-do attitudes. Every child deserves to be adopted and every child is adoptable, Nunamaker said, and that’s the message she and her fellow staffers are promoting in November, National Adoption Month.

Currently, five children in the county department’s care are awaiting adoption, said Julie Harris, supervisor. For one of those five, adoption proceedings will wrap up in early 2018. The department is already planning a party, complete with gifts and cake–something they do for each child for whom they find a permanent home.

“It truly is a celebration,” Nunamaker said–one that represents months, but more often years, of diligence on the department’s part and waiting on the child’s part.

When Children’s Services first takes permanent custody of a child, they assess the child’s needs: Would the child do better in a one-parent or two-parent household? How would he or she fare with other children in the family? Pets? And so on.

The staff then creates a flyer with a profile of the child for distribution to all other Children’s Services departments in Ohio, as well as various private adoption agencies. Additionally, they post the flyer on national, state and local adoption websites.

From there forward, they meet regularly for matching meetings.

“We really care about our kids. We want to make sure it’s the right match,” said Nunamaker, who has served as the county’s adoptions worker for the past 10 years.

In those 10 years, the county has found adoptive families for 26 children. Twelve of those children found permanent homes with their long-term foster families. Newly recruited families adopted the other 14.

“That is no easy task,” said Robin Bruno, Children’s Services administrator, about the job of recruiting new adoptive families. “Our children have all had trauma which also brings with it challenges.” Not every person or couple who considers adopting is ready or willing to take on such challenges.

Of the 26 children adopted this past decade, eight were teenagers, often a difficult age group for which to find families. Nunamaker said outside-the-box thinking is needed to place older children, who need a family’s support as they transition into adulthood.

Another statistic: Among the 26 adoptions, the county department found homes for five sibling groups representing a total of 11 children.

Bruno and Steve Kaifas, director of Madison County Job & Family Services, praised Nunamaker for the part she has played in those adoption statistics. Nunamaker soon will move into a new family findings position with the department. Barb Otto will be the new adoptions worker.

For more information about adoption, call Madison County Children’s Services at (740) 852-6055.

Ohio Adoption Statistics

  • 15,341 Ohio children are residing in foster homes or other out-of-home placement settings
  • 2,671 of the children in foster care are waiting to be adopted
  • 1,103 of those children awaiting adoption are at least 13 years old
  • Waiting children who are 13 and older have been in foster care for an average of 4 years, 6 months and 2 weeks
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