Just a year ago, Gilmore and then-3-year-old Alexander appeared in an Iowa courtroom, where Judge Richard Blane finalized Gilmore's adoption of Alexander.
On National Adoption Day 2012, Gilmore, a single mother, was back in court to adopt Alexander's little brother, one-and-a-half-year-old Max.
"I feel so blessed," Gilmore said. "I would be beating myself up right now if I hadn't made this decision. It is the best decision I could have made."
Gilbertville native Michelle Saveraid is an attorney with the Youth Law Center in Des Moines, and works closely with many adoptive families.
"Being in a loving, nurturing, forever home makes a difference," Saveraid said. "And, today, we get to celebrate that, and that's what the whole day is about. It's a thrill to be a part of that -- it always is. To come back and be able to see kids after they've been adopted, and see that they continue to grow and be loved and nurtured -- it's just amazing."
"It has its challenges," Gilmore said. "Parenting is a gift we're given, but it's also -- you have to rise to the everyday challenges that it beings to you. You cannot take parenting for granted. It is so very important."
Many Iowa families work with Iowa KidsNet, 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 also National Adoption Month.
"Every child deserves to have a permanent connection to a caring and supportive adult," said Kelli Malone, Iowa KidsNet project director.
"Each year about 26,000 youth turn 18 and age out of foster care without having permanent family connections," Malone added. "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.
As of March 31, 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 Iowa KidsNet at 1-800-243-0756, or online at www.iowakidsnet.com.
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