By Trey Kuhn, Pierce Garramone, Jacob Haslett, for the Forsyth County News
According to the Children’s Bureau, in 2017, almost 700,000 American children spent time in the foster care system, with only 8% of them ending up being adopted and brought into a real home.
The struggles foster children face, especially those with disabilities or are older in age, are serious, and numerous children will live out their early lives in the system until they are of legal age, while only a portion of them are fortunate enough to be chosen and accepted into a home.
Adoption, as many parents put it, has its ups and downs; but the benefits of it are mutual. It can improve the lives of the parents as much as the lives of their adoptive children.
Teresa Grimes and her husband, Randy, who coaches the freshman football team at Forsyth Central High School, have raised 11 children in their home, three of which have moved out. Of the 11, two are biological and both have graduated. The rest have been adopted either through the foster care system, newborn adoption within the U.S., and internationally.
Teresa and Randy have gone through the lengthy process of taking in two children from Taiwan and one from Korea. With their nine children, Teresa and Randy have faced many challenges unique to adoption.
“You have to be committed to identifying and meeting the needs of each particular child…” says Teresa. “You have to adjust your parenting style.”
Teresa described adoption as a rollercoaster. In many situations, adoptive parents may need direct contact with the birth family of their children for a certain amount of time.
“Adoption and easy don’t belong in the same sentence,” Teresa described with a laugh.
Teresa compared adoption to marriage: “When you marry someone, which we expect to be a lifelong commitment, you form a relationship with that person, and then you make a commitment to them. Adoption is the absolute opposite of that. You make the commitment, and then you form a relationship.”
Teresa and Randy are very passionate about giving all children a chance, no matter the family they come from or the convenience of adopting them.
“The minute the child enters your family they’re yours. They’re not biological or adopted, they are your child,” Teresa said.
Today, the Grimes family makes an effort to encourage others to adopt and stay in contact with other adoptive families in the community.
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Another family in the community that has made an impact in the adoptive scene is the Miller family. Steve Miller, who is principal of Otwell Middle School, along with his wife, Tammy, have raised a total of 12 children, the oldest of which is 26 years old, the youngest is 9. Of these 12 kids, seven of them were adopted and six have special needs.
“A perfectly healthy baby is going to get adopted. It’s much more difficult to get adopted otherwise,” Steve Miller said. “So, we specifically went out and looked for children with special needs that we felt would have a hard time getting adopted.”
Miller admits that there are ups and downs to the adoption process and raising adoptive children, especially those that require more from their parents.
“If you open up your home and open up your heart, it may be a challenge at times, but it’s well worth it in the end,” says Miller. “I’m not going to sugar coat it and say it’s all cupcakes and ice cream all the time because it’s not … it’s just being prepared for potential bumps in the road.”
Miller, however, makes it clear that he and his wife and even the community have benefitted from their children more than the children have from them.
“People have come up to us and told us that they are so happy to have met our family and they feel that they have become better people just by knowing our family,” Miller said.
Both families agreed with the fact that adoption and foster parenting needs to become more common. Teresa Grimes lamented that with parentless children from all over the world tallying up at 163 million, the majority of them will probably spend their lives under foster care, with few opportunities to be brought into a real home.
Regardless of the challenges, the experiences and relationships built as a result of the adoption, as put by Grimes and Miller, have made them better people and opened their understanding of fairness in the world and the need for everyone to deserve an equal chance.
This article was written by Forsyth Central journalism students in partnership with the Forsyth County News.