Choosing to love; hundreds attend adoption celebration at Staheli Family Farm

The Hensley family at the “Celebrating Families Through Adoption” event held at Staheli Family Farm, Washington City, Utah, Nov. 10, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY — Staheli Family Farm came alive as hundreds gathered Saturday for the the eighth annual “Celebrating Families Through Adoption” event in honor of “National Adoption Awareness Month” that takes place each November.

Community gathers for the “Celebrating Families Through Adoption” event held at Staheli Family Farm, Washington City, Utah, Nov. 10, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Families touched by adoption were invited to come and have fun at Staheli Family Farm, 3400 S. Washington Fields Road, in Washington City where many activities were on offer, including a free raffle, door prizes, temporary tattoos and small toys for the younger guests, along with a light lunch hosted by Mountain America Credit Union.

The festivities not only celebrated adoptive families but also educated and informed attendees about adoption, foster care and the agencies and resources available locally to assist in the union of families.

One such family, the Hensleys, have five biological children and one adopted child, Benjamin, who is nearly 3 years old.

The topic of adoption first came up when Niko and Daniela Hensley were told they could not have any children, as Daniela was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that doctors believed would prevent her from having a healthy pregnancy. The couple decided to start taking steps toward adopting a child, and during the process they ended up being able to have their own children.

“I knew I wanted to adopt a child at some point, so we both decided to proceed with it, regardless,” Niko Hensley said.

Later, they were contacted about an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit who was born addicted to methamphetamine and had multiple complications after birth, including underdeveloped lungs and heart issues. A family was already slated to adopt the child but they were out of the country at the time of birth.

The Hensleys took the baby, Benjamin, home on what was planned to be a temporary basis until the adoptive family returned to the area. After the family returned and realized they weren’t ready for the adoption, the Hensleys adopted the baby.

“We knew that if it was meant for Benjamin to remain with us that he would,” Niko Hensley said.

“This little guy is part of our family, and we feel no different about him than we do our other children,” he said. “He is our child.”

Today, Benjamin is a healthy, happy 2 year old.

“I just took him this week for his heart appointment,” Niko Hensley said, “and the doctor told us his heart looks perfect and he has no further appointments scheduled at this time.”

Several information booths circled Saturday’s event represented by organizations that help children and families with foster care and adoption.

When a child is put into a foster home, the birth parents are given a year to resolve their issues and follow a program allotted to them, and if at the end of that year the birth parents have not made adequate progression, an alternate permanent home is sought through adoption.

The Adoption Exchange hosts a booth at the “Celebrating Families Through Adoption” event held at Staheli Family Farm, Washington City, Utah, Nov. 10, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Kendra Healey, a recruiter with the Adoption Exchange, was on hand to answer any questions and provide information about the hundreds of children that are in the custody of the Utah foster care system and are eligible and waiting for a permanent home.

“My job, specifically, is to go out there and match a child with a family that will provide for that child’s needs in a setting that works for both the family and the child,” Healey said.

The Adoption Exchange provides a number of effective and innovative programs to connect waiting children with adoptive families. The exchange also assists adoptive families by providing resource information and referrals, support, advocacy and education through community partnership with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, Utah Foster Care and other organizations.

Many times, the children in foster care have special needs, some of whom come from abuse, neglect or abandonment, Healey said, adding that they can be healed in a stable, loving setting over time.

Event host Ellen Sorenson with Premier Adoption Agency told St. George News that the agency handles private adoptions and works with the DCFS, shelters, area hospitals and other organizations to place children, typically infants, with families permanently.

“We are here to let people know that adoption is an option,” Sorenson said.

Bikers Against Child Abuse on hand to support the “Celebrating Families Through Adoption” event held at Staheli Family Farm, Washington City, Utah, Nov. 10, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The agency often works with women who have unplanned pregnancies and are in “crisis mode,” Sorenson said. The goal of Premier Adoption is to let young mothers know there are resources out there that can help them make the decision that is right for them now and in the long run.

Bikers Against Child Abuse, BACA, was also on hand, with crowds of children gathering around the group’s booth for temporary tattoos, to speak with group members or to admire the extra-large brown teddy bear that has fondly become the group’s mascot.

“The bear’s great, but it’s a pain to move him around because he’s so big,” one BACA member said.

BACA member Justin Lefevre, otherwise known as “Twist,” said the group is committed to helping kids and that they attend any event that involves the welfare of children.

“We like to get out there to get our name out there,” he said, “but we are here because it’s about the kids.”

Event organizer Ben Ashcraft with Utah Foster Care said the event has grown bigger every year.

“We are so appreciative of the community for coming out and supporting us,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”

The community event was sponsored by United for Adoption – St. George ChapterUtah Foster CareMountain America Credit Union, Staheli Family FarmPremier Adoption Agency and the Adoption Exchange.

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