Lansing, MI - As the state celebrates Adoption Month during November, families from across the state are being recognized by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange as Outstanding Adoptive Families.
Included are Robert and Stephanie Wilson of Oakland County – who became legal guardians for four young siblings in foster care – and Marc and Nicole Olger of Kent County, who intended to foster two special half siblings with special needs until they could return home but stepped up when they needed a permanent home.
“Adoption Day and Adoption Month are times for all of us to think about and recognize the many loving families who step up to provide permanent homes for children who need them,” said Director Elizabeth Hertel of MDHHS, which oversees the state’s child welfare system. “As MDHHS director, it’s an honor to have the chance to visit with families who give children an opportunity to realize their dreams.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed Nov. 21 Adoption Day and November Adoption Month. More information about adoptive families who are being recognized this month can be found at www.mare.org/MI-Adoption-Day.
“My mom and dad were foster parents for 35 years,” Stephanie Wilson said, estimating that they provided loving temporary homes to more than 100 children. “Robert wanted to do it, and my parents did it, and we both felt the best way to share our love was to become foster parents, so we decided to move forward with fostering.”
The Wilsons, who live in Auburn Hills, ended up adopting sisters Kataleiha, now 9, and Kavin, 8, and became legal guardians of their brothers, Robert, now 17, and Syncere, 15. “They’re truly great kids,” Stephanie said.
She said her husband serves as a positive Black role model for the four siblings, who are also African-American. “I believe a lot of times, no matter what the race is, (children in foster care) don’t have that positive role model, male or female, that looks like them,” Stephanie said. “So when they see someone who looks like them, they can see it happen – that they can be successful and they can have their own house and own family.”
Marc and Nicole Olger, of the Grand Rapids area, wanted to be foster parents and didn’t plan to adopt. But they couldn’t say no when two-half siblings they were fostering ended up needing permanent homes. Both Bella, now 5, and Tyler, now 2, have special medical needs, so Nicole’s training as a nurse has come in handy. When Bella came into care at 6 months old she couldn’t roll over, verbalize or sit. “Bella has made leaps and bounds since coming into care,” Nicole said. “She is a miracle. We didn’t know if she’d ever walk or talk. She had to be taught how to do everything by several amazing specialists. Now she walks, she runs, she makes us laugh every day.
“Ty’s smile and silly attitude bring our family so much happiness,” she said. “His medical needs can be hard at times but the joy he brings into our lives makes it easy to forget the hard stuff. He truly is resilient with everything he has been through.”
Nicole would offer this advice to anyone interested in fostering or adopting: “Go into it with an open mind, but a caring heart. There have been a lot of challenges and unforeseen bumps in our journey. You have to be able to be able to be flexible to the different challenges that arise. It’s very emotional and hard but also very rewarding. At the end of the day, it’s about the kids and they are worth it and truly bring so much more joy to our life.”
Approximately 10,000 children are in foster care in Michigan, including approximately 250 children who are still awaiting a forever family through adoption. The number of children in foster care is down from nearly 14,000 in 2018 as MDHHS has focused on keeping families together, reunifying children safely with their families, and finding adoptive homes more quickly when safe reunification is not possible. More than 1,600 children were adopted from Michigan’s child welfare system from October 2022 through September 2023.
Courts statewide, in partnership with MDHHS, are holding special Adoption Month ceremonies in November at which children officially become permanent members of their new forever families. That includes an adoption event hosted by the Michigan Supreme Court today. Anyone interested in adopting from foster care can contact the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange at 800-589-6273, or see biographies and photos of children available for adoption at www.mare.org. Adoptive homes for teens are especially needed.