KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Saturday is National Adoption Day, and November is National Adoption Month. In honor of that, people in the metro are sharing their stories of love and forever families.
Every family as a unique adoption story. But one thing all the families and case workers will tell you, is the need for adoptive parents is high. They hope through celebrations that will take place all over the country this month will raise awareness about all the kids who need homes.
Parents adopted a dozen children Friday at the Wyandotte County Juvenile Court. Twelve-year-old Nevaeh Espinoza is one of those children.
"It's better because we don't have to go through the process anymore," Nevaeh said. "It's been like 4 years, I think."
Nevaeh's dad, David Espinoza, has taken care of her since she was a toddler.
"I divorced her mother. We had a lot of problems," David Espinoza said. "Terminated her rights, and they gave me the opportunity to take Naveah into our home. We have my two younger daughters who are her half sisters, so she fits in perfectly in our home."
From stepdad, to foster dad, to legal father.
"It's wonderful, perfect," Espinoza said. "This is a happy ending right now. To a new beginning."
But not all children have someone waiting and ready to adopt them.
In Kansas, there are more than 7,000 children in the foster care system. According to the Kansas Department for Children and Families, 500 are legally ready for adoption.
"The number of kids in foster care is rising," said Kristalle Hulsey, director of adoption services at KVC. "Kansas is an example of that. We are at the highest rate that we've ever been, and the capacity for our system is much lower than 7,000 kids."
But 2018 was a record year for adoptions. The Kansas Department for Children and Families attributes that to streamlining and shortening the adoption process for families adopting children from foster care. This year so far, they finalized 1,500 adoptions, up from 700 last year.
Judges are happy to preside over those happy moments.
"They say, 'Do I have what it takes?' And I say, 'You have the desire to care for a child. You have what it takes,'" said Judge Daniel Cahill with the Wyandotte County Juvenile Court. "We'll help you with the rest of it."
Jackson County Court also had an adoption celebration Friday. Nearly 40 children were adopted. There are still more than 240 kids in Jackson County in foster care waiting for their forever families.