This year, dozens of families in Mississippi received the best Christmas present of all: a new member of the family. Thanks to a concerted effort from the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services called "Home for the Holidays," more than 120 children were adopted into forever families last month, and even more will be adopted by the end of January.
On one day alone last month, 11 children were adopted at a mass adoption ceremony at the Jackson County Chancery Court. Judge Neil Harris, who presided over the December 20 event, called it a "Christmas miracle."
Harris also claimed that the adoption process is personal for him. "We’re making life changes," he said. "And since I’ve had adoption in my family and have gotten a grandchild, then it is personal to me and I know how personal it is to these families."
It certainly was personal for the families involved. The Parkers said they had been fostering a young girl for over a year. Now, that girl, Izzy, is officially a member of their family.
"Izzy was actually our very first foster placement after getting our license," one of the Parkers stated, "and she’s been with us a little over a year now, and we got termination rights about a month and a half ago, and we have been waiting for this day ever since. So we are very excited.
"A big ole weight is just off our chests, just knowing that she’s ours forever now and nobody can take her away from us now," the Parker family member added. "So it’s just a very awesome and amazing feeling."
Still, foster children were not the only kids whose adoptions were finalized last month. Patience Wolfe officially became the mother of Lexi Wolfe, the young daughter of her husband, Johnny Wolfe.
"Meeting a new stepmom or lover of a parent is difficult, but in two years, we have made a good relationship. We are in a good place. This was the final step for our family to be whole," Patience said.
Though Jaqueline and Jerry Waits had technically been fostering their two grandchildren for the past three years, they, too, have now become adoptive parents. "It’s been a long process, but we’re happy to be a part of the mass adoption process today," Jaqueline said.
"It’s been a special day," her husband added. "Like I said, it’s been a long time coming. We’re happy to get it done."
The day before the mass adoption ceremony in Jackson County, Hinds County, Mississippi, held a similar ceremony, officially uniting a total of seven children with four different families. Angelleek Johnson had been foster mother to 14-year-old Maegan for a decade and had adopted Maegan's older sister four years ago. Now, they are all one family.
"We are excited that this day has finally come," Angelleek Johnson said. “This is her forever home."
"I’m just honored to be her mom," she added.
Roshunda and Sederca Harris of Byram became a family of six that day. They had already adopted two brothers, Tavion and Demarion. Now, they have two sisters, Emerald and Kai Jai, as well.
Amanda and David McNatt, who had adopted 12-year-old Evr five years ago, now have added 13-year-old Miley to their family. "It’s time for her to have her forever family," Amanda said.
Attorney Will Manuel, who normally works on product liability and employment litigation but who volunteered to assist with the mass adoption proceedings in Hinds County, found the experience very rewarding. "It’s nice to do something where everyone leaves the courthouse happy."
Back in mid-October, Mississippi CPS expressed the hoping of having a total of 250 adoptions by the end of January, and it will likely succeed. But now, Judge Harris and at least one colleague have bigger plans for 2023.
"I spoke to Chief Justice Randolph several weeks ago, and he and I talked about his goal of having 1,000 adoptions in Mississippi for 2023, and Jackson County is on track in this district to do just that," Harris claimed.