17th annual National Adoption Awareness Month means much to Kellerman family

Published 9:20 am Monday, November 28, 2016

The Kellerman Family

The Kellerman Family

Since its inception nearly two decades ago, a special awareness program orchestrated in November has brought joy to families and children alike.
This year has been no different, with the 17th annual National Adoption Awareness Month continuing to make an impact across the country — along with Carter County.
According to adoption.com, while all adoption-related issues are important, the particular focus of the month is for adoption of children in foster care.
The Kellerman family of Elizabethton recently took part in the festivities, adopting two little girls from foster care this month.
The idea struck a year ago, according to Tracy Kellerman.
“In 2012, I was serving in the nursery at church,” she said. “At the time, there were a couple of families that did foster care who had foster babies. I had the privilege of caring for them and fell in love with one child in particular. It was then that I approached my husband with the idea of doing foster care.”
But with five children already, there was a little hesitation, Tracy joked, but a little persistence the family went a far way as the family did short-term foster care.
“In order to become foster parents we had to take a seven-week course called PATH,” she said. “Have a home study and submit to a background check. Once all of this was completed, we became an approved home and just waited on a phone call from DCS.”
While the plan was meant for short-term, that quickly went out the window.
“It wasn’t long before our short-term care turned into long-term care,” Tracy explained. “Children that come into foster care can be in state’s custody anywhere from six to 12 months to even 24 months. It all depends on how quickly the biological parents work their plan to regain custody of their children. Unfortunately, when parents fail to complete their plan … that is when a child or children become adoptable.”
While going through the process, the family reached a special connection with two little girls, two-year-old Khara and one-year-old Gigi.
“What led to us adopting our two girls from foster care is we had been the girls’ family ever since they were born,” Tracy said. “We brought both of them home from the hospital as infants. When the state made the decision that the girls were not going to be able to return home, there was no question whether we would be the family that would adopt them.
“Most children who are adopted through foster care are adopted by their foster family,” she continued. “As foster parents, we have the right to be given first choice when a permanent family is needed for the children or children in our home. November 3 was adoption day! In our hearts the girls had always been ours. It was nice to finally have everything finalized and them legally be a Kellerman.”
As joy flowed through the household, the process wasn’t exactly short and sweet, Tracy said.
“Adopting from foster care is a long road,” she said. “The girls that we adopted had been in custody for 28 months and almost 12 months when the adoption was final. When you decide to become a foster parent you choose to bring kids into your home, to love them, and treat them as your own knowing they could leave.”
But the family utilized foster care as a ministry of sorts.
“People would often say to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it. I would be afraid I would have to let them go’,” Tracy said, adding it’s the state’s No. 1 goal to provide reunification. “Me being afraid of being hurt doesn’t stop children from coming into custody. Children come in regardless, but I imagined myself as that child who had been removed from all they had ever known, good or bad.
“Therefore, I wanted to provide a place where kids could feel safe, loved, and even give them some of what they’ve never had before,” she continued. “I, too, have a different mindset. I found fostering as a ministry. It’s a ministry to the birth family, a ministry to the kids that come into my home, and it has taught my children how to welcome and love others.”
Having the opportunity to spread love is important, Tracy said. And having a month dedicated for children looking for their forever homes provides that type of outlet.
“It is great to have a month dedicated to focus on adoption,” she added. “For families who are looking to adopt … children come into state’s custody every day. Some children return home, but lots do not. In order to adopt from foster care, you have to be willing to walk the road of the unknown. I have numerous friends and acquaintances who have adopted from foster care.
“The girls we adopted were not our first placements,” Tracy continued. “We experienced children leaving our home. These were the first children we had taken in as infants. I had to trust God with their future. I had to be willing to surrender to His plan even if that meant saying goodbye. We are thankful though that God chose us to be their forever family.”

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