Smiles abound as children find forever homes at Monmouth County Adoption Day.
FREEHOLD – Karen Mitcham of Freehold always wanted to have three children.
It took a while, but she got her wish on Friday, at age 64.
That’s when the adoptions of Samantha, who turns 6 next month, and Jaylen, age 2, were finalized at the Monmouth County Courthouse, as part of national Adoption Day ceremonies.
Samantha and her new 2-year-old brother join older sister Mya, whom Mitcham and her domestic partner, Victoria Smith, adopted six years ago, when Mya was a year old.
Abigayle Moses of Red Bank also got her wish Friday, at age 11. She said she always wanted to be a big sister. That became a reality when her parents, Richard and Seegal Moses, adopted 5-year-old Steven, who became their ninth child and their third adopted child.
“I’m happy because I love him,” Abigayle, also adopted, said of her new brother.
And Jeff and Kate Johnson of Middletown, although unable to have biological children, achieved their longtime dream of becoming parents with the adoption of Ellianna, 3 ½ months.
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The adoptions were among 17 that were finalized Friday during Monmouth County’s Adoption Day proceedings.
On Thursday, Superior Court Judges Madelin F. Einbinder and Robert E. Brenner presided over 17 adoptions during Ocean County’s Adoption Day celebration in Toms River.
Adoption Day, marked in communities throughout the nation since 2000 during the week before Thanksgiving, is an effort to raise awareness of the more than 110,000 children in foster care in the United States who are available for adoption and awaiting placement in permanent homes. Of those, there are about 250 foster children in New Jersey who are available for adoption but who have not been matched with an adoptive family, said Ernest Landante, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.
Entering are Seegal and Richard Moses, Middletown, with their children Abigayle and Steven, (foreground) Steven is newly-adopted. The Monmouth Vicinage 12th Annual Adoption Day Program was held at the Monmouth County Courthouse, Freehold, on Friday, November 17, 2017. (Photo: RUSS DESANTIS/CORRESPONDENT)
Smith, having suffered from abuse as a child and temporarily placed in foster care and separated from her six siblings at age 10, understands the importance of a permanent family to a child.
“All these factors helped me to become a person who would do what I can to protect children,” she said.
“I’ve always had a love for children,” Smith said. “I’ve been babysitting since I was 5 years old.”
Karen Mitcham, Freehold, laughs with her newly-adopted daughter Samantha Mitcham-Smith. The Monmouth Vicinage 12th Annual Adoption Day Program was held at the Monmouth County Courthouse, Freehold, on Friday, November 17, 2017. (Photo: RUSS DESANTIS/CORRESPONDENT)
Mitcham and Smith have been in a domestic partnership for 16 1/12 years, Smith said. They started fostering children in their Freehold home seven years ago, when they first took in Mya.
“Since then, we’ve had about 30 (foster) children in our home,” Smith said.
Among them were Samantha and Jaylen, who clearly stole the couple’s hearts.
“I just fell in love with them, and I didn’t want them going anywhere else,” Smith said of her newly adopted children.
“They’re all beautiful and smart children,” Mitcham said. “We have time to spend with them, we try to show them things that are fun, take them places and just have a good time.”
Smith, 58, who is retired from careers as a corrections officer and home-care supervisor in New York, already raised three biological daughters, now ages 39, 33 and 32. But Mitcham, though she raised a goddaughter who is now 32, never had biological children.
“God gives you everything you want, but in God’s time,” said Mitcham, a retired hedge-fund manager. “It’s coming. You’re going to get it.”
The Johnsons tried to either adopt or conceive a child for five years, said Jeff Johnson, 38, a teacher at St. John Vianney High School in Holmdel. But they weren’t actively pursuing adoption when they were contacted by an agency who told them an expectant mother found them to be exactly the kind of couple to whom she wanted to give up her unborn child.
They met Elliana one hour after she was born, said Kate Johnson, 36, who works with special needs children at Bright Beginnings School in Piscataway.
“It was like a moment of happiness, surprise, a moment you’ve waited for for a long time,” Kate Johnson said of the moment she first laid eyes on Elliana.
While the couple was clearly excited about finalizing their adoption of the infant girl, Kate Johnson said, “She already feels like she’s ours.”
Monmouth County Surrogate Rosemarie Peters noted there still are many children who have been in and out of foster homes who still are awaiting permanent placement.
“The permanency of a home is like the Holy Grail to these kids,” she said.
She said subsidies available through the Department of Children and Families can make adoption affordable to some people who otherwise couldn’t adopt.
Landante said the subsidies are available to those who adopt special needs children.
“It makes adoption affordable,” Peters said “If people knew adoption could be within their reach, more people would step forward and give these children a home.”
For more information on becoming a foster parent, call 877-NJFoster or visit www.njfoster.org.
For more information on adopting, call 800-99ADOPT or visit www.njadopt.org.
Kathleen Hopkins: @Khopkinsapp; Khopkins@app.com; 732-643-4202
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