And that’s what happened at Ottawa County Circuit Court’s Family Division on Tuesday, when several children became official members of families during the annual Michigan Adoption Day.
“It feels better to have a family,” said 16-year-old Keyon Sheneman, moments after he legally became the son of Curt Cook and Audra Fitzpatrick-Cook of Robinson Township.
“It’s exciting and scary at the same time,” Curt Cook said.
Sheneman was required to sign a consent form to be adopted because he is older than 14. He wasted no time signing the form.
Sheneman told Judge Mark Feyen that he likes to play video games and swim. He also explained to the judge that joining the Cook family is “a new start for me, a new chapter in my life.”
The teen’s adoption worker couldn’t have been happier for her charge.
“This is one of the best adoptions I’ve been able to do,” said Samantha Cummings of Arbor Circle. “Keyon’s a great kid. I couldn’t hope for better for him.”
The Cooks assured Feyen that they were committed, even though they realize adding the 16-year-old to their family has been a challenge. They’ve been fostering the boy for a year while awaiting finalization of the adoption process.
Fitzpatrick-Cook admitted that she was never interested in having children of her own.
“For some reason, I really enjoy other people’s kids,” she said.
But, a few years ago, the Cooks were looking at a website that featured children looking for families and they “decided to check it out.” The Cooks contacted Bethany Christian Services and started the application process to become foster parents, with the intent of adopting a child.
It took about a year for them to become licensed, Curt Cook said, noting that they were looking for an older child.
When Sheneman joined their household a year ago, it was supposed to be for just a couple of weeks.
“But, after five days, we called and said we’re pretty interested in him,” Fitzpatrick-Cook said.
And Sheneman has been with them ever since.
Feyen said that Sheneman is a good example of why Michigan Adoption Day is so important. The event, held the week before Thanksgiving every year, is intended to raise awareness of all the children in need of a home.
In Sheneman’s case, Feyen said the boy’s parents were not able to take care of him and he ended up in the foster system. He had some issues along the way and some previous foster arrangements didn’t work, the judge said.
But this time it did.
“Normally, when a 16-year-old is in foster care, it does not turn into adoption,” Feyen said. “For him, it just worked out really well. He’s doing great in their care.”
At any given time, approximately 13,000 children are in foster care in Michigan. About 2,400 of these foster children will go on to be adopted. Of those, 2,100 kids have an identified adoptive family, leaving 300 children in need of a forever home.
On average, foster parents adopted 51 percent of the children, 40 percent of children were adopted by relatives and 9 percent of children were adopted by a recruited family.
Michigan Adoption Day is an opportunity to encourage families to step forward and take on the very important role of a foster or adoptive parent. Post-adoption services and, in some cases, financial assistance is available to offer adoptive families the support they need for this transition.