Making families official: Parents adopt foster children on National Adoption Day
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Duggars are at it again.
However, these Duggars are not the ones who have 19 kids and counting. In fact, their name is not even spelled the same as the family featured on the popular show on The Learning Channel.
This Dugger family is settling on five children — as in five adopted children.
Jerry and Sherry Dugger, of Johnson City, were one of several families who officially and legally adopted their foster children during Blount County’s celebration of National Adoption Day Tuesday morning in front of Circuit Judge Tammy Harrington.
Officials from the state Department of Children’s Services (DCS), which oversaw the adoption processes for most of the families, also attended.
“Before I replaced him after he retired, Judge W. Dale Young had a great history of making adoptions very special in Blount County,” Harrington said. “We’re trying to carry on this tradition and bring it to the next level.”
The Duggers, already serving as foster parents to their granddaughter and two others, said the children they are adopting have been in their home for three years, and the process to make them legally theirs was lengthy.
The children include four boys — Cameron, Ethan, Colby and Michael — and one girl, Katelyn.
“DCS asked us if we would take the children in,” said Sherry Dugger. “We took them in and they did the process for reunification with their parents. One thing happened after another, but fortunately we were blessed to get to keep them.
“This was the closest and soonest court date we could get, so we were ready,” she continued. “They wouldn’t have one in our area until the first of the year.”
Sherry Dugger said one thing that people have a hard time understanding about the adoption process is showing patience.
“It’s not an overnight thing,” she said. “There’s different steps you have to take in order to adopt. With us being in foster care, when you first get them their goal is to get back home. We were concerned that (adoption) may not happen because we didn’t know if anyone would appeal on anything. We’ve always been a family. We just continue on, and now the children get our name and we don’t have to worry about anyone else stepping in.”
Jerry Dugger, who is employed at American Water Heater in Johnson City, said he strives to balance out his work time and family time.
“I work third shift,” he said. “I sleep and then go to work. By the time I get home, (the children) get on a school bus. I’ll get up and take them to ball practice. We’re on a certain routine that’s pretty set, written down, and everyone knows chores and schedule for the day.”
So how do the children feel about officially being a part of the Dugger family?
“It’s great!” they all shouted.
“They all seem to be excited. They’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Sherry Dugger said.
David Roberts, the attorney who handled most of Tuesday’s adoption cases, went through the basics of the adoption process.
“A lot of these people are adopting children from DCS, so what they’ve done is go through an investigation process to see if they are good caregivers and good families,” Roberts said. “Children are placed with them and under the law they have to live with the family for a minimum of six months. They have to be available for adoption, which means the parental rights of the birth family have to be terminated. At the end of that process, what were doing today is finalizing those adoptions.”
Suzy Langley, adoption supervisor for DCS’ Smoky region, said when families are first identified, they go through an extensive training process called PATH (Parents as Tender Healers).
“We complete these checks and assess these parents to determine if they meet the qualifications to serve as foster parents,” Langley said. “Once they are approved and meet those qualifications, we look at what children they would best fit with that can best meet their needs on a long-term and short-term basis.
“The training process is specific and research-based,” Langley continued. “We use our assessment tools and discuss with families what their motivations are and what their backgrounds are. We discuss with them what their parents’ family backgrounds are and how they were they raised, and what kind of experience and skill sets do they have and if we can utilize those.”