Before coming to the United States, seventeen year-old Kalkidan Hefel lived most of her life in an Ethiopian orphanage.
Kalkidan's mother died when she was just 5-years old, and she came to the U.S. just two years ago.
Friday, in a Black Hawk County courtroom in Waterloo, a northeast Iowa family legally adopted Kalkidan.
Christa and Rick Hefel of Guttenberg adopted Kalkidan after working with the Iowa Department of Human Services and IowaKidsNet, the statewide organization, which advocates for children in the Iowa foster care system.
The Hefel's have three children already, so their kids, Samantha, William and Austin welcome a big sister into their family.
In allowing the Hefel's to adopt Kalkidan during Waterloo's first-ever Adoption day Friday, the State of Iowa waived its 180-day rule. The Hefel's first met Kalkidan just a few months ago, and seemed to know right away that they would want to adopt her.
Kalkidan turns 18 in just a few days. She is also trying to help her Yezelalem Minch orphanage back in Ethiopia. There are countless orphaned children in Ethiopia.
Yezelalem Minch sponsorships is a non-government organization which helps these children, many of whom orphaned as a result of the Ethiopian AIDS epidemic. To learn more about Yezelalem Minch orphan sponsorships, go to: http://helpsmission.org/sponsorship/yezelalem/
Many Iowa families work with IowaKidsNet. Iowa KidsNet is a statewide collaboration of agencies which utilizes a unique, cohesive approach to provide recruitment, training, licensing and continued support to individuals who wish to become foster and adoptive parents.
IowaKidsNet is a partnership of Iowa social service agencies, including Four Oaks, Children's Square USA, Family Resources, LSI, Quakerdale and affiliate Youth and Shelter Services. For more information, call 1-800-243-0756. November is National Adoption month.
"Every child deserves to have a permanent connection to a caring and supportive adult," says Kelli Malone, Iowa KidsNet project director.
Malone says, "Each year about 26,000 youth turn 18 and age out of foster care without having permanent family connections. This November we urge more Iowans to consider becoming foster or adoptive parents, especially for older youth, or find ways to raise awareness in their own communities about the needs of Iowa children in foster care."
According to the Iowa Department of Human Services, as of August 2012, there were about 765 children in Iowa who were legally eligible for adoption, meaning parental rights had been terminated.
Many of these children already have an adoptive home identified with a relative or a foster family, while others are still waiting for an adoptive home.
On March 31, 2012, there were approximately 6,100 Iowa children in foster care, which includes placements in non-relative foster homes, relative foster care, group homes, institutional care, supervised independent living or on trial home visits.
More foster and adoptive parents who can care for teenagers, sibling groups and children with special needs are urgently needed, said Malone. There is also a large need for more African American and Latino foster and adoptive families.
In all Iowa counties, including Black Hawk County, Iowa KidsNet offers free post-adoption support services for families who have adopted a child through the Iowa Department of Human Services.
Of the 104,000 children in the U.S. waiting to be adopted from foster care, some will wait five years or more to be adopted, a lifetime to a child.
To learn more about foster care, Iowa's 'Waiting Children' and adoption, contact IowaKidsNet at 1-800-243-0756, or online at: www.iowakidsnet.com.
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