“I’m super happy,” Matthew said about the big day. “I can still see all my friends and I can hang out with the best mom ever.”
It’s always organized chaos on the third Saturday in November with kids running and laughing and parents trying to corral them before Probate Court Judge John Holcomb and his magistrates to seal forever families. This year, Theresa Cooper, permanency administrator for Butler County Children Services, said 13 children will be adopted by nine families.
“It’s such a feel-good day to watch these kids and the smiles that they have, just how excited they are, we love that feeling for these kids,” Cooper said. “They’ve been through so much and that feeling that they get that day, that this is their family forever can bring tears to your eyes.”
She said Billie and Matthew have been in child protective system for several years and came into their permanent custody in January, after attempts to reunify them with their biological parents failed. It is Children Services’ job to investigate reports of abuse and neglect and take action if warranted. She said they have 277 children in their custody and 80 are eligible for adoption.
The Coxes have two biological sons T.J., 8, and Zeke, 7, and Shania said her aunt had a large group of foster kids when she was growing up, and she knew she wanted to do the same.
“When I met Tyler I told him first thing I really want to foster and adopt in the future and you’d better be OK with that,” she said. “He said me too and I was like sweet.”
She said they saw an article a few years ago that BCCS needed more foster families and they decided to put their words into action, they have fostered a total of five children. Tyler said growing up one of his best friends was adopted and while he had the same vision as his wife it was a little scary.
“When she showed me that article that Butler County was in need I thought we’re too young, I don’t make enough money, I just got my first job in Ohio,” he said. “We lived in a single wide trailer at the time, I thought there’s no way we can afford to do this, but really you don’t need money to get started, you really don’t need money, you don’t need a big house.”
He’s 25, and Shania is 28, and they live in Reading. He works at the Ohio Cat dealership, and she was a stay-at-home mom but has gone back to work as a teachers aide at Reading Elementary, “so I get see the kids all day.”
The Coxes said Matthew and Billie had difficult childhoods and now are normal kids, except Shania jokes Billie loves to clean the bathrooms and Tyler says Matthew loves to do “guy stuff” with him like “loves to go fishing and camping and all that stuff ... he’s good for me.”
BCCS is always looking for foster and adoptive families, especially to take in teens and sibling groups. This year Cooper said they have one 17-year-old girl who has been in the system for most of her life being adopted and a couple other families adopting “sib groups.”
Foster and adoptive parents aren’t left to fend themselves, Cooper said adoptive children with identified special needs can qualify for adoption assistance which includes Medicaid for the child and a monthly subsidy that is negotiated with the family and based on the needs of the child. A typical subsidy amount ranges from $400 to $500 per month.
“We do our very best to qualify the kids through the program and once they qualify we go through the process of negotiations where the family and agency agree to an amount,” Cooper said. “We can start at zero but very few kids get nothing.”
The foster care rates for families range from $734 to $1345 depending on the needs and age of the child.
She said there have been 45 adoptions so far this year and hope to finalize more by year’s end. BCCS finalized 44 adoptions last year, down significantly from 91 in 2016, just prior to the pandemic in 2019 there were 87.
The agency has 133 licensed foster families and the county’s Job and Family Services Executive Director Julie Gilbert urged more people to consider fostering or adoption.
“We are so fortunate to have adoptive families who are committed to caring for these children and becoming their forever families. The love and the caring they provide is to be celebrated and to be recognized,” Gilbert said. “They receive support from our agency, from their fellow foster and adoptive parents and it’s just and extremely fulfilling and meaningful calling for people.”
This will be Holcomb’s third National Adoption Day since taking office and he plans as usual to have the giant gavel at the ready for the kids to bang on his bench after the adoptions are final. He said they have “large, extra large and jumbo” gavels to get the job done.
“Seeing the joy on the families faces as they get their adoptions finalized to kick off the holiday season,” he said is his favorite part.