When two-year-old Jaden’s biological parents went through the process of voluntarily signing over parental rights, Kimberly Wieneke and her husband rejoiced at the thought of welcoming the child as their own son. The couple from Fort Smith, Arkansas, had been fostering for over a year, and Jaden has been with them since May 2019.
They knew the day his parents terminated their rights that they would be adopting him in April. However, they encountered a hiccup; because of the coronavirus pandemic, the adoption court hearing could no longer be held on the scheduled date.
Adoption occurs when children who can’t be raised by their biological or legal parents become full and legitimate members of another family. There are different ways by which it can be done: domestic infant adoption (adoptive parents take in the newborn child right after they’re born), foster care adoption, and international adoption.
Each of these types come with their respective pros and cons, and what the adoptive family chooses may be based on their financial capability, how long they’re willing to wait, and their preferences for an adopted child. According to American Adoptions, approximately 2.5% of all children in the United States are adopted.
Voluntarily signing over parental rights is a life-changing decision that should never be taken lightly. After terminating parental rights, the former parent would no longer have any right to visit the child or take part in any decision-making involving the child’s care. It is highly rare for parental rights to be reinstated after the court has ended it.
Courts generally avoid ending a biological parent’s rights except for situations when the child is in imminent danger or when the non-custodial parent voluntarily requests signing over parental rights, and new parents are waiting to adopt the child.
Once everything has been smoothed out, the adoption hearing takes place – a usually joyous occasion that marks the end of all the waiting and processes involved in adopting a child. The adoptive parent(s) and child(ren) are required to attend the hearing so the judge can take their formal testimonies.
The event usually lasts for less than 15 minutes and ends on a happy note. The judge, the family, friends, and other witnesses typically take a picture together to commemorate the special moment.
Unfortunately, the Wieneke’s and Jaden didn’t get to experience the conventional adoption hearing that most families usually have. When the boy’s parents proceeded with voluntarily signing over parental rights, Jaden was put up for adoption in February 2020. Kimberly knew in her heart that she wanted Jaden to be their son.
However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, their scheduled April 16 hearing could no longer take place at the court. Social distancing has changed people’s way of life dramatically, and adoption and foster care processes are no exception.
Instead, the hearing had to be done via Zoom, a videoconferencing application.
“We see all the pictures after the adoption day — they’re standing there with the judge, everyone is smiling,” Kimberly said. “We didn’t get that.”
Regardless of the unexpected turn of events, the Wienekes are grateful that Jaden is now legally part of their family.
“Sometimes it feels like not real, I mean we sit and look at him and we’re like, ‘He’s ours,’ “Kimberly said.
PEOPLE shared the adoption story on their Facebook page, and many individuals couldn’t help but express how happy they are for the family.
“OMG!!!! Look at that sweet face. So happy for him and his family, that he is now officially part of their family. He’s a very lucky young man.. wishing them all the very best. Congrats,” wrote one user.
“Adoption is awesome and amazing. A blessing both ways (for child and parents!) Congratulations! Wishing your family health, wealth and happiness!!” another commented.
Other adoptive parents weren’t as lucky. A woman commented on the post, wishing that a virtual adoption hearing could also be done in her locality.
“I really wished Los Angeles County would do this. We had our adoption day scheduled for 4/16 and now are being informed we will have it rescheduled for Feb/March 2021,” said one commenter.
Nothing, not even a pandemic, can stop this family from welcoming another member into their home. Congratulations to the Wieneke family!