HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi Department of Human Services placed 15 former foster children in permanent homes in a mass adoption ceremony on Monday.
"It never gets old. It never gets old," said Stephanie Barnes, adoption area social work supervisor. "It's rewarding for us because you have some children that have been in custody for years. You have some children that have only been for a moment, but no matter how long they've been there, the rewarding part is that they've been able to find, we have found – other workers, resources workers have been able to help them find - a forever family. One that they can call their own."
Two-and-a-half-year-old Browyn Welch is one of the children now adopted into a forever home. His mother, Valerie Welch, said she and her husband became foster parents in hopes of eventually adopting.
"We have one biological daughter, and we were told that we couldn't have anymore," Welch said. "We chose to go this route in hopes to be able to give back to the kids who need a family. We knew we wanted to adopt. That was our long-term goal. We chose to do foster care, and we were fortunate enough to bring a baby home and ultimately adopt him, which is really an unusual situation. It worked out for us and we are extremely grateful."
Welch said Browyn was only 30 days old when he first joined their family, and after more than two years, she said she is thrilled to officially and legally be his mom.
"We can go and do and say this is our son," she said. "It's extremely emotional. The whole week has been emotional just knowing that, you know, the anticipation 'Is it really going to happen?' We've had several dates before when it was supposed to be finalized, and things got pushed back. There's a lot of legality and a lot of paperwork. When they told us last Wednesday that it was a go and we signed the papers at the lawyer's office, it was like surreal."
Barnes said it is that type of commitment that MDHS looks for in all of its potential adoptive families.
"We're looking for someone that is going to be willing to give these children a lifetime commitment," Barnes said. "Through the ups the downs, those teenage adolescent years, those times when you just want to pull your hair out, we want someone who is going to have that stick and stay and be able to be there for these children, so that they can call it a family forever. Until we're old and gray, we'll know that we've had someone that has been there for us."
Barnes said it is an unfortunate reality that her department is always looking for foster and adoptive families for children, and Welch said she is hoping to help.
"We have hopes of finalizing an adoption on our other baby next year sometime, " Welch said. "It went from three of us to four to five in less than two years, but it's been fun. It's been busy, but it's been wonderful."
"Those children that come into custody deserve to have a family that cares for them," Barnes said.
Barnes said if any families are interested in learning more or starting the certification process to possibly become foster or adoptive parents, call the Hattiesburg MDHS Family and Children's Services office at 601.554.4354.