YOUNGSTOWN — Saturday marked National Adoption Day with celebrations taking place across the country.
Trumbull County Children Services brought its party to one of the agency’s favorite new partners. Families who have adopted children since last November were invited for food and fun at OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology in downtown Youngstown.
“We always try to do different things,” said Adoption Supervisor Trudy Seymour. “OH WOW! works with the agencies in both counties.”
Seymour said the agency won a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids grant from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and put some of the money toward a membership at OH WOW!. She said Children Services now often uses OH WOW! as a neutral ground for pre-placement visitations with kids and prospective families.
Seymour said 14 foster children were adopted in 2023, and 17 are well into the adoption process, meaning they have a court date set or have at least been matched with a family.
She said 30 more children also are waiting for the agency to identify a home for them.
“We are always looking for homes for children, not looking for children for homes,” she said. “We want to be sure the placement is a success, and that the children are comfortable going there.”
Seymour said experience and studies have shown that adoptions are more successful if the child knows the person adopting them in advance, someone like a teacher or coach or mentor, or even another family member.
She said the agency works to defray costs for families adopting from foster care, usually covering all or part of the adoption fees, and providing a monthly subsidy to offset the costs of raising the child, especially if the child has special needs.
Terry Paronish of Girard said the agency is good to its word.
“We have been treated wonderfully by Children Services,” she said. “The help, the interest, the support, I would say it has been above and beyond.”
Paronish knows exactly how challenging a special-needs adoption can be. She adopted her son, Chance, 8, in April. Paronish has been a foster parent for 17 years and has three other adopted children, two from Children Services. But she said her family was in no way prepared for the challenges Chance would bring.
“When he came into our home…I’ve never been so overwhelmed,” she said.
For the first six years of his life in another foster home, he was mostly kept in a single room. Entirely deaf in both ears, the boy had not been educated, socialized, or even toilet trained. When he first arrived, Paronish’s family was stunned by his outbursts and even violent attacks.
They have since gotten him fitted with a cochlear implant so that he can hear voices. They have all begun learning sign language, but still hope that Chance will learn to understand spoken language even if he can never use it.
They go to therapy with him six days a week, and he is attending a school for deaf children. Paronish says he is a different child now, although the house is still in a state of upheaval because of the responsibilities of caring for him.
“We have total chaos in our home, but to us now, it’s normal chaos,” she said. “There are so many things we’ve all learned because of him.”
Tia Barrett of Liberty also has experience with fostering. She has worked with the foster community personally for years and also is a case worker for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services in Mercer County.
“When my oldest daughter went off to college, I decided I wanted to open up my home,” she said.
Barrett has had her two toddler daughters — Harlow, 3, and Blakely, 2 — since birth, and adopted them in April.
According to the resolution signed by Trumbull County Commissioners proclaiming Nov. 18, “Adoption Day” in the county, more than 115,000 children across the country are waiting for homes, and every year more than 20,000 children age out of the foster system, leaving them vulnerable to homelessness, substance abuse and other troubles.
Anyone who would like more information on becoming a foster caregiver or adoptive parent can call 330-372-2010.