SHERIDAN — The processes to adopt a child vary depending on what entity controls the process and the agencies from where families are looking to adopt. Multiple groups in Wyoming are working to make the process easier.
Amber Van Dyke grew up with foster siblings and her family eventually adopted a child out of the foster care system. Van Dyke’s mother, Tracy Jones, was honored by Compass Center for Families as the 2016 Champion for Children for her extensive work with children and lifelong dedication to the foster care system.
Van Dyke, who learned naturally to care for the at-risk children needing temporary or permanent families, operates the sole adoption agency in Sheridan County, Hope Adoptions and Consulting LLC, out of her home. Van Dyke mainly assists in international and domestic infant adoptions but has dabbled in assisting with adoptions from foster care.
She also works with families pre- and- post-adoption to help them through potentially troublesome situations.
“Adoption work is a broader term to me than just the families I work with that I might be doing a home study for because it’s a whole lot longer process than just getting the kid home sometimes,” Van Dyke said.
The adoption agent ensures that families are fully apprised of the potential rocky waters ahead.
“Early trauma is very challenging for kiddos and can be a long-term thing to overcome,” Van Dyke said. “Any time you have a child coming out of an orphanage, an abuse and neglect situation, any of those things early on is a recipe for potential challenges.”
While families may have great intentions for adoption, Van Dyke coaches families through the process.
“I try to alleviate the rose-colored glasses for families without trying to completely steering them away and shattering all their dreams,” Van Dyke said.
International adoptions historically are more expensive and take the most time, especially with new accreditation regulations for agencies. Hague Accreditation signifies that an adoption agency meets the standards founded in the Convention, Intercountry Adoption Act and the Universal Accreditation Act, according to its website. The process made paperwork similar if not identical for each country, although countries still control factors related to adoptive family requirements like age and health conditions of adoptees.
“The fact that they’re all having to follow all the rules of the Hague Accreditation is making that process more cumbersome for the agencies and countries themselves,” Van Dyke said.
Domestic infant adoptions can vary in time and cost and can be as expensive and time-consuming as international adoptions but they can also move more quickly than anticipated. Adoption through the foster care system and DFS proves the most inexpensive and quickest.
Before a family can adopt a child through DFS, the court system must first make a child legally free for adoption, which Wyoming DFS support services administrator Roxanne O’Connor said can be a lengthy process. During this process, the child may be living with a relative or a foster family.
When a child is ready for adoption, the department works with other adoption agencies certified in Wyoming to find the child their forever home if the hosting family does not already wish to adopt the child.
Because of the troubled pasts of the children in the department’s custody, the department works with potential adoptive families to identify and plan for those needs before, during and after the adoption process, similarly to Van Dyke’s available services.
Adoptions through the department range from 70 to 100 statewide per year, and 41 adoptions occurred in Sheridan County through the DFS in the last 10 years.
O’Connor said DFS finds it difficult to secure adoptive homes for older children and sibling groups.
“The department believes every child deserves a home and encourages people who are interested to explore becoming a foster family or adoptive family,” O’Connor said.
The adoption process can be lengthy, expensive and challenging, but a few entities in the state are working to simplify the process and place kids with loving families.