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Daughter, father talk about importance of family

DHS Commissioner Jesson and Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea smile with Cora and her father Chris.At the 16th annual Celebrate Adoption: A Circus of the Heart event, hosted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and its partners, hundreds of children and their families danced, played games, won prizes, rode ponies, made bracelets, listened to music, designed T-shirts and climbed on fire trucks. Many others learned about adopting children from the foster care system as they spoke with experts from the state, counties and adoption agencies at the event in Oakdale, Minn., launching November as Adoption Month. Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson spoke briefly at the beginning of the event, before handing the microphone off to Chris Iverson, and his daughter, Cora, whom he adopted when she was 16.

With enthusiasm and a big smile, Cora, now 17, said, “I love being part of a family!” Cora also enjoys school, theater, books and church, she said, and she appreciates that her father, Chris, provides her with the stability and support she needs.

Chris described his decision to adopt as a long journey, in which he researched adoption, attended multiple trainings, connected with parent support groups and read numerous books over two and one-half years. Once he made the decision, he was determined to adopt, and better off for it. “She doesn’t question my commitment to her. She knows we’re a permanent family,” he said. Since adopting Cora, he added, “I am more patient and more able to let small things go.”

While he acknowledged there are challenges with raising a teenager, he encouraged adoptive parents not to be afraid to be honest with children, to let them know parents make mistakes, and to seek the help of support systems when needed.

He said it’s also “okay to be angry and not feel guilty about it.” He said, that while he and his daughter have their disagreements, like all families, “she feels safe and knows that this (their relationship) isn’t ending. We’re a family. We’re there for each other.”

Of the 889 children under state guardianship, 520 need safe, permanent, adoptive families immediately; 33 percent are 12-18 years old, like Cora, and 53 percent are siblings who need to be adopted together.

“These kids deserve better than they are getting,” he said. “They’ve lived through what no person—no child—should ever go through.”

Jesson said in her speech, “I am a parent, and know the importance of family throughout our lives. I have met a number of you, including adolescents who were adopted just shy of their 18th birthdays over the last few years. They are remarkable. I encourage you to consider adopting.”
Gildea said “Children want permanent homes. They want what other kids want: stability, a loving support system and the guidance as they navigate the difficult journey into adulthood.”

For more information about adopting call your county social service agency or one of the adoption agencies working with the state for information on adoption, home studies, child-and-parent matches, and services following adoption; or, visit the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network website, www.mnadopt.org, which is under contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, for information on children available for adoption, or call MARN at 612-861-7115 or 866-303-6276.

Celebrate Adoption: Circus of the Heart is sponsored by MN ADOPT, a program managed by MARN under contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Partners include: Anoka, Hennepin and Ramsey counties, and several private adoption agencies: Ampersand Families, Bethany Christian Services, Children’s Home Society, Family Focus, HOPE Adoption & Family Services International Inc., Kindred Family Services/Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and North Homes Adoption Program.

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