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Three families celebrate National Adoption Day with the Delaware Kids' Department

Three Delaware families celebrated National Adoption Day by finalizing adoptions of their own.

Tini Graff never knew anyone who was adopted, but knew from the time she was a child that one day, she wanted to adopt a 10-year-old. In May of 2020, the opportunity presented itself, but with an additional challenge.

Now 12, Champ Graff and his big brother Frankie, who is 18, have been adopted into Tini’s family, who has three sons of her own with her husband.

“The biological kids, they've grown up with us, we got to instill everything in them as they grow and we were able to give them the love and the care that all kids deserve and not everybody gets," Tini says. "You wonder when you bring another child in, can I love them the same? And without question, I love them the same, like it's not even a question, the way I feel about these two is no different than how I feel about these three.”

Adult adoptions are rare, but far easier than adoptions for minors. And for Frankie, it was a no-brainer when Tini asked him to move in and reunite with his brother.

“Throughout foster homes, I was never able to get good sleep, but when I come home I can sleep," Frankie says. "Like there's just little things, I can feel comfortable just being myself. I haven't had many places that feel like home really. Not many, but this is definitely one of them.”

Division of Family Services adoption program manager Moira Dillon, says it’s important to recognize that everyone needs a family, no matter their age.

“I love working with the older youth, they have their own personalities," Dillon says. "There's so much to learn from all of these kids, but so much to learn from our older kids. They have their own story and they have their own personalities. And I think that's a real benefit to raising an older kid and inviting an older youth into their family.”

DFS Director Trenee Parker says there was a decline in foster families and adoptions during the pandemic, but predicts that those numbers will sharply increase in the next few years.

"We want children to be served in a situation that is as similar to family as we possibly can," Parker says. "Some of our youth actually don't respond well to that, which is why we have group homes like Murphy school because some youth are very bonded to their biological families and don't want to bond to another family. And that's okay. We need to make sure that their needs are being met as well."

Parker says that a common misconception about adoption is that it’s an expensive process. In fact, she says, there are only minor costs for adoption approval related processes. Parker adds that there is agency support every step of the way.

"We're not seeking perfection," Parker says. "It's about love. So if you have the ability to invite a child into your family, to grow your family through adoption, we just want to be a part of helping you achieve that goal."

There are currently 565 kids in foster care in Delaware, with 34 kids actively looking for a family. Parker say they need people who will take in older kids and sibling groups.

As of the week of Thanksgiving, there are 122 kids between the ages of 16 and 18 in foster care in Delaware. The numbers are concentrated around teenagers and babies and toddlers — just 124 children between the ages of 7 and 12 are in foster care in Delaware.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.