While the pandemic has changed many aspects of the adoption and fostering process, family services remain committed to kids' safety.
It only took a few weeks for the pandemic to bring the world to a near-complete halt—derailing industries, personal and professional lives, schools, social events, and more. However, despite its far-reaching power, this global health crisis hasn't been able to touch one important aspect of human lives: the permanence of familial bonds. It couldn't stop two-year-old Jaden from officially becoming a part of Kimberly Wieneke and her husband's lives, proving that nothing can keep this family apart. After fostering him for about a year, the Wienekes officially adopted the young boy on April 16 over a Zoom video call.
2-Year-Old Arkansas Boy Adopted Over Zoom After Coronavirus Pandemic Canceled Court Hearings https://t.co/in02f9mBCX— People (@people) April 26, 2020
According to CNN affiliate KNWA, the Wienekes have been foster parents for over a year. They welcomed Jaden into their home in Fort Smith, Arkansas, last May and almost immediately knew he was meant to be a part of their family. "In my heart, I already knew I wanted him," said Wieneke. And so when they found out in February that Jaden was going to be put up for adoption, the couple didn't think twice about putting in the request to become his forever family. "We knew the day they terminated [the parental rights] that we would be adopting April 16," she revealed.
However, the global outbreak of the novel Coronavirus put a wrench in the Wieneke's planning when court hearings had to be canceled for safety reasons. All their big plans for Jaden's adoption had to be put on hold when the hearings moved online. "We see all the pictures after the adoption day — they’re standing there with the judge, everyone is smiling. We didn’t get that. We missed out on our big hoorah," said Wieneke. Instead, Jaden's adoption hearing took place over a Zoom video call, and on April 16—as planned—the little one officially became a Wieneke. Although they didn't get the full-court adoption experience, Jaden's new mom says the day was memorable nonetheless.
"Sometimes it feels like not real, I mean we sit and look at him and we're like, 'He's ours,'" she said. While the pandemic has changed many aspects of the adoption and fostering process, family services remain committed to kids' safety. "It’s really changed our whole interaction with these kids and the ability to check in on them," said Foster Care worker Addie Martin. "We have to think of their safety as far as COVID-19 but there are still checks that we have to do."
We're still working hard here at #AdoptionsWithLove with #adoptivefamilies and #birthparents to create loving adoption plans...virtually!!!!🏠💟👩👩👧👦🥰#adoption #love #foreverfamilies #zoom #workfromhome #stayhome #covid19 #staywell pic.twitter.com/nNjEfBt7Te— Adoptions With Love (@AdoptionsWLove) April 23, 2020
"I feel like I’m actually working harder to be able to see my kids. I’m trying to think outside of the box on how I can see them," added Adoption Specialist Ashley Elam, revealing that she has helped finalized seven adoptions since the pandemic. "Adoption is an amazing thing, no matter how you do it." Speaking to TODAY Parents, Judge Thomas O'Diam—who recently presided over a virtual adoption hearing—said: "We're affectionately referring to it as 'cyber court.' My clerks are all at their individual houses working remotely."
Amid pandemic, parents finalize adoptions virtually via Zoom https://t.co/m5l5ObsNYD— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 11, 2020
"It just makes us feel good that we’re able to continue and give some sense of normalcy to people when it seems like nothing else is normal," he continued. "Adoptions are my absolute favorite. Usually, they’re very emotional. A lot of times there’s a lot of tears — sometimes even from me." The judge added that he hopes to make Zoom video conferencing an ongoing feature in his courtroom to give out-of-town family members that opportunity to watch adoption hearings and cry happy tears in real-time. "It is the most heartwarming experience you could ever have," he said.