Connecting the Pieces

On November 20 Exploration Place will be transformed from the typical fun-filled attraction to a fun-filled attraction overflowing with local families who are changing the course of a child’s life.
National Adoption Day—a nationwide event celebrating its 10th anniversary this year—is organized locally by Youthville.
Last year on National Adoption Day, more than 40 children’s adoptions were finalized on this one day.
 “It’s pretty amazing,” said Youthville CEO Shelley Duncan. “Every year we’ve had it, more and more adoptions are finalized on that day. It’s really a big celebration.”
Forming a forever family
 Early on, Julie Leatherbury learned that she could not have children of her own.After a failed adoption, Julie and her first husband decided to become foster parents to needy children in their area. It didn’t take long for Julie to realize that this was the parenting arrangement she was meant to be in.
“I just connected with these kids,” said Julie. “And they seemed drawn to me, too.”
 Julie and her husband became foster parents to a 10-month-old little girl with special needs and about three years later, in 1995, they adopted the little girl, Chelsea. Two years later the family adopted Amanda, who was 13 years old.
Now remarried, Julie and her husband decided to continue serving as foster parents. Julie’s husband, Dennis, is an
agricultural pilot and travels a lot, but the family enjoys visiting him when he’s away on longer trips.
On Adoption Day 2009, Julie and Dennis adopted their third daughter, Tanisha. Tanisha, a freshman in high school this year in Goddard, and her three biological siblings had been in
foster care for years and were anxiously awaiting a forever home.
“After just a few hours with her I knew we were gonna connect,” said Julie. This year on Adoption Day the family is celebrating once again as Julie and Dennis officially finish the adoption process and welcome Tanisha’s younger brother Ty, a sixth-grader, into
the family.
“He stole my heart,” said Julie. “A lot of family is coming to celebrate Adoption Day with us again this year.”
Adoption Day celebration
On Nov. 20, local judges set their courtrooms at Exploration Place and several dozen children will leave the room with official forever families and many more families will be in attendance to celebrate adoptions done over the past year.

“The judges actually come down to Exploration Place and each family goes into a room and goes through the legal
process for adopting the child,” said Youthville’s Shelley Duncan.
All of the required steps have been done before Adoption Day but on this day the paperwork and finalization is done on site.
“There’s excitement throughout the day,” said Duncan. “There’s food and so many people. We have a professional photographer there taking pictures of the families.”
Youthville handles over 200 adoption a year in Sedgwick County and there is a whole department that is in charge of recruiting and educating foster families and adoptive families.
“Ideally, if at all possible, we want the children to be adopted by a family member,” said Duncan. “But if that isn’t possible, about 70 percent are adopted by foster parents.”
But even with so many local children being adopted, Youthville has more than 300 children awaiting adoption in Sedgwick County right now.
“I think the most important thing to me is that kids are actually being adopted and are going to have forever families,” said Duncan. “And we are raising awareness about the need for families to adopt all these other children. Most people don’t even have an inkling that
we have this need.”
The adoption process itself is relatively easy, said Duncan. Youthville staff members walk families through each step from training to signing official adoption papers. To find out information on becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent, visit www.youthville.org  or call 1-800-593-1950 and talk with someone at the agency.
Written By: Jessica Lindsey

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