Lakeland, Fla. – The Florida Baptist Children’s Homes is celebrating a number of recent adoptions of older children from their campuses and is working to encourage more Christian families to consider becoming a “forever family” to an orphaned child.
According to Dr. Jerry Haag, president of the Children’s Homes they have had a number of recent successes where older children and large sibling groups have been joined to an adoptive family.
“We are absolutely thrilled at the number of adoptions that we have completed recently. We are even more excited by the fact that many of these children have been older and part of large sibling groups. Typically these wonderful children are harder to place,” Dr. Haag said.
One adoption that was recently finalized was Kobe Ellis who was in residential care at the Children’s Homes’ Lakeland campus. Kobe is twelve years old and was placed with the Ellis family. The parents Kenny and Jennie Ellis live in Lakeland and have three biological boys of their own ages 10, 8, and 5.
“There are a few days in the life of my family that are emotional beyond words. They include our wedding day, the birth of our three boys, and now the adoption of our dear Kobe!” Jennie Ellis said.
Ellis attributes their adoption of Kobe to God’s miraculous work and the many people that were praying for him to find an adoptive home. “God revealed to us last spring that we would have another son. I had never heard God speak so clearly. I soon learned that many people had been praying for Kobe,” Ellis said.
Sue Latter, the Children’s Homes social worker that worked with the Ellises in placing Kobe attributes much of the success to God’s intervening work.
“One day at lunch several staff and I were discussing older children and what a struggle it is to place them in an adoptive home. We decided that day that we would pray specifically for two children on our campus. Kobe was one of those children. Within a few weeks I received a call from Kobe’s basketball coach, a wonderful Christian man, named Kenny Ellis.”
“Kenny said that his family had grown to love Kobe and wondered if he was available for adoption. He said that Kobe’s house parent had hinted that he was available for adoption when he picked him up from basketball practice. Kenny and I spoke at length and the ball started rolling from there,” Latter said.
The Ellises are involved in a wide variety of activities including many different sports, which made Kobe feel right at home. “They are all very active and enjoy fishing, basketball, and being rough and tumble boys. But most importantly they all love the Lord! Before Kobe even met the Ellises he had stated that he hoped one day to be adopted into a family that had siblings who like sports. He also said that he wanted to be with a Christian family as he loves going to church,” Latter said.
Kobe was considered a special needs child by the state of Florida, which entitled the Ellises to a number of benefits to help care for him. Dr. Haag explains that the term “special needs” is a bit misleading, but refers to certain categories of kids that are harder to place into an adoptive home.
‘‘’Special needs’ is a term used in federal rules that describe certain categories of children eligible for financial assistance in the adoption process. It does not necessarily mean that the child has a mental or physical disability,” Dr. Haag said.
In Florida one or more of the following criteria qualifies a child and their adoptive family for financial assistance: 8 years of age or older, member of a sibling group being placed for adoption together, African American or racially mixed, and mental or physical handicap.
The financial assistance for a special needs child usually includes free health care (for the child) through the Medicaid program and free college tuition to one of Florida’s state universities, colleges or vocational schools. In addition, a family adopting a child from state care will usually be eligible for a monthly stipend to help defray some of the costs related to adding a child to their family.
Dr. Haag said that parents that adopt children through the state of Florida are not charged an adoption fee and that the only fees may be attorney fees and court costs, but in many instances those may even be reimbursed by the state.
“We have a number of children in our care that are available for adoption, and throughout Florida there are more than 1,000 children looking for a forever family,” Dr. Haag said. “Our prayer is that each of these precious children will be placed with a loving Christian family.”
For more information on adoption contact the Children’s Homes at 863-687-8811, e-mail.