The Adoption Process – Part 1

The South Carolina Heart Gallery Foundation supports the work of the South Carolina Heart Gallery, which is a collaborative program administered and supported by the Foster Care Review Board, Office of the Governor and the South Carolina Department of Social Services. The S.C. Heart Gallery is dedicated to finding forever homes for children in foster care, and serving families who are interested in adoption from foster care.

 

Yet, the adoption process can be overwhelmingly daunting for any family—especially those navigating it for the first time. Background checks. Home studies. Paperwork. There is a lot to consider, and information can be hard to find. That is why our dedicated partners at the S.C. Heart Gallery have worked with adoption offices around the state to present the following steps of the adoption process.

 

Following is part 1 of this process:

 

  1. Inquiry/Intake: An interested family or individual inquires about adoption in general or a specific child, usually either by phone or email. Basic information about the family is gathered, the general process is discussed, and an application is mailed to the family.

 

  1. Application: After the family or individual returns the completed application, the regional DSS Adoption Division assigns a Family Worker, who invites the family to Orientation. At Orientation, the family receives a comprehensive overview of the adoption process and a packet with instructions and additional paperwork that must be returned. General requirements include:
  • Background checks, fingerprints, and Central Registry checks on all household members 18 or older
  • Copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce petitions and decrees, and military discharge papers
  • Family history/background, household income and expenses, education/work history, and current medical reports
  • Written references from non-relatives
  • Additionally, DHEC and the Fire Marshal must complete sanitation and safety inspections of the home.

 

  1. Training: The family attends two days of training provided by Heartfelt Calling (a division of the SC Foster Parent Association) and one day of adoption-specific training provided by the regional DSS Adoption Division.

 

  1. Home Study/Pre-placement Investigation: A Certified Adoption Investigator (CI) is assigned to the family. The CI schedules a minimum of two home visits to interview all family members, review the application documents, and assess the family’s acceptance of background factors and their readiness to adopt. The CI completes the home study and submits it to the regional DSS Adoption Division; the family is notified of approval or denial. Upon approval, a digital copy of the file is sent to the State Office so that all SCDSS Adoption Specialists have the ability to review it as a potential match.

 

Come visit us here on the blog again next week for part 2!

 

Behind the Scenes at a Photo Shoot

It was a typical summer’s day in the South—with heat and humidity that felt like a sauna. But the temperature didn’t hold us back. Today, it was all hands on deck for the SC Heart Gallery photo shoot in Falls Park in downtown Greenville, SC.

 

Staff and volunteers showed up early to set out coolers of bottled water and juice and boxes cookies and chips for the children to enjoy during their time with us. Several volunteer photographers prepared their equipment and scouted various locations throughout the park where they would soon be photographing children. Likewise, our videographer set up under a tent in a quiet area away from the noise of the rest of the group.

 

One at a time, the children and their caseworkers began to arrive. Some were a little nervous, while others were just excited about the experience. It was obvious that each child had worn their favorite outfit; they wanted to look their best for the potential adoptive families who would be seeing these photographs.

 

Each child was assigned a photographer and a staff member to ask questions about their likes and preferences; their answers would be used in a profile to accompany their photos. What do they want to be when they grow up? What is their favorite subject in school? Who is their role model?

 

Before long, we were in full swing. The photographers hardly got a break—as soon as one session finished up, they started off with another child. Each child who was photographed was also interviewed on camera, capturing footage that would be used to create his or her own individual video. By 2pm, everyone was exhausted from the heat but—at the same time—uplifted and encouraged by the children we had met.

 

In total, 18 children participated in that SC Heart Gallery photo shoot in Greenville. This number is in addition to 94 children who were photographed and 70 who were videotaped by the Heart Gallery from January to June this year. The photos and videos captured during these sessions are gateways to adoption for these children—keys to permanent placement with a family of their own.

 

For the opportunity to serve children in this way is truly a blessing.

 

The South Carolina Heart Gallery Foundation supports the work of the South Carolina Heart Gallery, which is a collaborative program administered and supported by the Foster Care Review Board, Office of the Governor and the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

 

A Hidden Hero: Kim Holmes

The foster care/adoption world isn’t an easy one to navigate. It can be filled with frustration, heartbreak and tears just as often as it can success and joy. It takes exceptional individuals to navigate the system and fight day in and day out for these children. From caseworkers to non-profits to advocates, they passionately believe in a permanent family out there for every waiting child.

 

In honor of those who fight to match children with these families, this month the SC Heart Gallery Foundation blog is dedicated to these “hidden heroes”. This week, we are proud to recognize Kim Holmes, DSS Adoption Specialist with Region III Adoptions.

 

Holmes

After growing up in rural Johns Island, Kim studied pre-law in college and then found herself working at DSS which, which she says was only supposed to be for only a year or two. Today, Kim has been with DSS for 26 years.

 

A highlight of her career was the “Luggage Of Love” campaign with Region III Adoptions, in which luggage was donated and used to help children move as needed. Kim had the vision to start the initiative and enlisted the help of another adoption worker to help get it off the ground.

 

She explains, “When many of my children were being moved from a foster to adoptive homes, I grew tired of their belongings being handed to me in black garbage bags.”

 

“The result was overwhelming, as we now have several pieces of luggage for children as they transition from foster care to adoption,” she adds.

 

Kim says that she always found it particularly sad when a child didn’t have a family of their own—not only to the child but to their self esteem as well.

 

“I have a passion for older teens as they always feel as though their chance at a family is a lost cause and that no one will want them after a certain age,” Kim says. “Teens are no different than anyone else. They are at the critical stage where they need someone in their life before stepping into adulthood.”

 

Fitting to the name “hidden hero”, Kim is truly a selfless servant in her role with children.

 

She explains, “You have to have compassion for what you do and understand that sometimes your day will not perfectly end at 5pm…In the end, that child will appreciate what you do for them. The reward that I get is at the finalization hearing in the form of silent tears. It gives me joy to see children smiling and bonding with their new family. When we hug each other after the sound of the judge’s gavel hitting the bench, it merely means that I am passing the DSS torch to the new family with the understanding that they will continue to be the light in the eyes of these young souls and help them become responsible productive adults one day.”

 

Thank you, Kim, for your selfless service to South Carolina’s waiting children.

 

The South Carolina Heart Gallery Foundation supports the work of the South Carolina Heart Gallery, which is a collaborative program administered and supported by the Foster Care Review Board, Office of the Governor and the South Carolina Department of Social Services.