Webster defines the word “adopt” as to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one's own child. The definition seems cut and dry, but the process is anything but! A local family very experienced in adoption is the Edwards family of Franklin County. Rob and Rachel Edwards, along with their two biological children, Caleb and Emily, have adopted five children through the State and one child from China.

Their story begins back in 2004 when they became licensed foster parents through a licensing agency named Kidspeace. They took in several abused and neglected children until their parents received the help they needed, and they could be safely returned home. The Edwards’ let their license expire in 2006 upon the closing of Kidspeace and because Caleb and Emily were getting older with active schedules.

Then in 2010 they began the licensing process again through the DCS, this time with the intent to adopt. It took almost a year to get a placement because they were not willing to foster unless the children were legal risk, or their parental rights had been terminated. Legal risk means that the Department of Child Services is working two case   plans for the children, one for reunification and the other for termination. This typically happens if the children have been in the system prior, or the parents have many obstacles to overcome for reunification to be a possibility.  

In 2011, the Edwards’ agreed to provide respite care (temporary break for current foster parents) for a sibling group of two brothers: Samuel and Isaac. The respite was to be for the weekend only, but on Sunday when the caseworker called to see how things went, she asked if they were willing to keep the boys for good. The boys were considered legal risk, so the parents’ rights had not been terminated when the Edwards’ agreed to foster them.  The boys were officially adopted by the Edwards’ in December of 2012. 

At the same time, the Edwards’ were pursuing an international adoption for a little girl. Their daughter Emily had done mission work in China the year before and met a little girl that she knew would one day be her sister. Sophia was brought home to the US in June of 2012.
The Edwards family fostered another 3 or 4 kids and then a sibling group of three: two girls, Maddy and Macey, and a boy named Luke came in 2015. Again, the siblings were only supposed to be with the Edwards’ for a week, but they never left. This time adoption took four years and was final in 2019. 

Rachel Edwards states, “The advantage of adopting through foster care is getting to meet the child and bond with them and getting to know them vs. international adoption you have a picture and a couple paragraphs about a child you are pursuing and then they hand them over to you. “

Edwards goes on to explain that the expense of an international adoption is great, while adopting through DCS is relatively free with little expense.

She states, “They both are equally hard processes, just in different ways. Fostering a child that is not legally free, you have no idea what the outcome will be. You are constantly on this roller coaster where things are going great and one phone call can change everything, its difficult.”  

Foster care is meant to be a temporary solution for a child in need. With foster care, the goal is to reunite the families. Edwards understands this better now in hindsight. Rachel states, “I went into this thinking I had it all together, I had a house, a husband and all the support I needed. I felt I was better prepared and honestly felt I was a better mother that someone whose children were in the system. Today, I look back, and I love my kids so much but I see moments where trauma is present and we have to work through it and I know, had things been different and they could have went back to their biological parents, they wouldn't be facing this now. Kids need to be with their biological families but if that is not possible, adoption is a beautiful, wonderful opportunity.” Edwards frequently posts on social media about their experiences with their children with the hashtag #wecouldhavemissedthis, which shows she believes there are always blessings in the challenges. 

Edwards went on to explain if she had it to do over, she would go into it with a completely different mindset. “I would be more helpful and try to mentor the biological parents more than I was willing to do before. I've learned so much about myself throughout this process. I thought I had it all together. I thought I was patient, that I was a competent parent, but all that goes out the window and it's a completely different road when you adopt a child with trauma,” Edwards said. 

“We had to learn how to have a large family, we went from 4 to 12 when everyone is home. We had to figure out how to travel, how to feed them all; but luckily it didn't happen overnight, so we adjusted,” Edwards said.

Growing up in a home that fostered and adopted children had a profound effect on the biological children of Rob and Rachel. Their son Caleb, now married, plans to adopt children in the future. Their daughter, Emily, has a master's degree and is a therapist that helps families who have adopted with attachment issues. Her whole college career was spent studying the attachment theory. 

The Indiana Adoption Program is an initiative to find adoptive homes for children in foster care in Indiana. According to a recent DCS release, there are over 1,500 children eligible for adoption in Indiana and almost 300 are still looking for their forever home.   All these waiting children have one thing in common, they've come from hard places. They have experienced abuse and neglect and the trauma of having to leave their home. They need parents who can provide a loving, stable, permanent home. 

“These children have hopes and dreams, and unique personalities. They want a family, they want to belong,” says Heather Click, Indiana Adoption Consultant. “They need parents who are persistent, patient and can advocate for their needs and at the same time be flexible enough to roll with the unexpected.”

All families wishing to adopt through foster care in Indiana must complete the following:
16 hours of resource and adoptive parent training;
Complete a home study that is an assessment of your ability to parent and provide a stable home and to prepare you to adopt a child whose experiences and history may be very different than your own;
Be recommended by the Indiana Adoption Program.

Recently Indiana was recognized as the top state in the nation for matching the most children in foster care in need of a permanent home with an adoptive family. This came from Governor Holcomb's making increasing adoptions as part of his Next Level agenda and in fiscal year 2019 a record 2,317 children were adopted in Indiana. Earlier this year, the governor announced the creation of the first-ever adoption unit in the DCS. The unit brings additional staff to each region to assist family case managers with finding permanent homes for children when parental rights have been terminated. 

In addition, the DCS has more than doubled its number of adoption consultants from seven to nineteen. The agency also launched an enhanced database to better track adoption inquiries and a digital picture book of Indiana's waiting children. 

November is National Adoption Month, and usually the Indiana Adoption Program hosts dozens of adoption awareness events though many are not happening because of because of various public health orders. These events are a great way to get to know foster and adoptive families, to show your support for these families and learn more about how to help children in foster care. Events that are still happening can be found online on the Indiana Adoption Program site: www.Indianaadoptionprogram.org

When asked if there's anything else she'd like to say to families that might be considering adoption, Edwards didn't hesitate to say, “If it's something you've thought about and it's been on your heart, just do it. God will work out all the details, go as you are led and do not be afraid.” 

For more information on the Indiana Adoption Program visit their website at www.indianaadoptionprogram.org or contact your location's adoption consultant: Region 12: Fayette, Franklin, Rush, Union and Henry Counties is Heather Click at 812- 593-2763 and Region 15: Ripley, Dearborn, Decatur, Switzerland and Jefferson Counties is Jennifer Carroll at 812-212-1936.