Iowa kids learn language of love in their new family - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa kids learn language of love in their new family

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Thanksgiving carries some special significance this year for Judy and Mike Kannenberg.

The Iowa couple just adopted 5-year old Jesse and his little sister, 3-year old Faith.

Married nine years without children, it was indeed a special day for Mike and Judy. The Kannenbergs have been licensed foster parents in Iowa, and they adopted Faith and Jesse on National Adoption Day in Des Moines.

The finalization took place in in the courtroom of Iowa District Court Judge Colin Witt.
Attorney Jane White represented the children in court and told the court: "It is in these children's best interests to stay in this family."

During the hearing, Faith played under a courtroom table, and Jesse sat with his guardian ad litem, attorney Michelle Saveraid, a native of Gilbertville. Saveraid is one of Iowa's top child advocates involved with this case.

Saveraid says the road to the day was a long one.

"Both of these children, for as young as they are, have been through a tremendous amount of trauma throughout this case," she said. "To see them land in a home that's been able to give them stability and love and nurturing, to see them flourish in that placement, has been tremendous."

During the court hearing, everyone listens except Judy. She hears nothing, because Judy was born profoundly deaf, and relies on sign language to communicate.

Sign language interpreter Susan Terrell of Cedar Rapids was in the courtroom on the special day, so Judy can tell everyone how she feels.

Through the sign language interpreter, Judy tells everyone, "I think we do really well with the kids. The kids are really happy with us. They have a lot of fun, you know, at night, we have a lot of fun together."

Judy points out that Faith and Jesse are learning sign language right now.

"We're so happy to have them with us," Judy said. "We love them and they're learning sign language. It's really cool for them. They think it's neat to learn sign language. They love school."

Thanks to Iowa's "One Family One Judge" philosophy and concept, Judge Witt has been the judge in this case from the very beginning, and that's a huge benefit.

"Having that one judge and that family in an appropriate and courtroom-type setting builds a relationship and have the working knowledge," Witt said. "It's invaluable and creates better outcomes for kids and families."

Michelle Saveraid adds, "The court process is not easy, as well as realizing the trauma that most these kids have been through and helping them address that and make sure services are addressing it."

Many Iowa families looking at foster care and adoption 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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