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Finding a forever family

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By Roger Snodgrass

Editor’s note: The privacy of an adoptive mother and her two daughters is protected in this story by using their first names only.

A special Los Alamos family will be among those recognized at a Heart Gallery reception for families who adopted foster children this year.For an adoptive mother who is also a sole parent, the experience has been well worth it.Virginia and daughters Angel, 13, and Denae, 6, are among the five Los Alamos and 12 Rio Arriba families who together adopted 31 children in 2007, a record high local number for the area.New Mexico Children Youth and Family Department’s first Heart Gallery in Española will be held from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Northern New Mexico College, 921 Paseo de Oñate, in the Rotunda and Common Area. Along with the families, a centerpiece for the event is an exhibition of portraits of New Mexico children who are available for adoption and waiting for their “forever families.”According to an announcement by the department, leading photographers donated their time and talents to create the gallery. “I’m always trying to recruit other parents,” said Virginia. “You do not adopt children to save the world. There is only one good reason and that’s because you want a child.”She added, “You don’t have to have a perfect life, a perfect home or lots of money.”Virginia said her experience with adoption goes back to February 2002 when her oldest daughter was placed with her as a foster child and was legally adopted in June the next year. Her younger daughter was a foster placement in December 2005 and her adoption was finalized in February 2007.“It’s an arduous process and it’s gut-wrenching,” she said. “You can’t imagine what it’s like sitting in a courtroom with a mother who is in the process of relinquishing a child she loves dearly.” However, there are many joys, she said.“I hate to think I would have gone through life not knowing what ‘tippy-top bottom’ or ‘fudgetickle’ was,” Virginia said. “Tippy-top bottom,” it turns out, means “the very” bottom, much like “tippy-top” means the very top, Virginia explained.And fudgetickle? That’s a great name for a fudgecicle.“That’s what they should be called,” Virginia said.One aspect of the adoptive family that Virginia did not anticipate is that she maintains a relationship with many members of her daughters’ families. “Both girls have contact with their biological mothers,” she said. “They are important relations to maintain.”Adoption month was begun in Massachusetts in 1976, when then-Governor Michael Dukakis proclaimed a week to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in the foster care system. President Gerald Ford made it a national event later the same year and in 1990, it was expanded from a week to a year.Nov. 17 was declared National Adoption Day in the Presidential Proclamation, a day when hundreds of adoptions are traditionally finalized at the same time in courthouses across the country. For Heart Gallery event Thursday, Chef Ron’s Catering of Northern New Mexico College is providing food for the reception. Entertainment for the children and music will also be provided.The CYFD website at www.cyfd.org also features New Mexico children who are waiting for adoptive homes via the “Adopt a Child” link.For general foster/adoptive parenting information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, please call CYFD at 1-800-432-2075. Margaret McKinney, foster and adoptive parent recruiter for the area, can be reached at 505-425-9335, ext. 134.