FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - November is National Adoption Month, and in South Carolina, there are currently 154 children ready and waiting for their forever families.
This year, the Department of Social Services is putting extra effort toward finding safe and dependable homes for the older kids in its care.
One former foster child sat down with WMBF News and shared her story, hoping more people find room in their hearts to adopt children like her.
“I didn’t see myself really graduating high school, I thought I was just going to be a dropout like the rest of my family,” 18-year-old Alexis Ragan said.
She said she lived in California and Oregon before moving to Deerfield in Surfside Beach with her mother and other relatives and non-relatives.
Ragan said it wasn’t the best life growing up. She was surrounded by drugs, bad influences and abuse. DSS removed her from her mother when she was 15 and took her to a group home in Hartsville.
“When I was placed in foster care I didn’t think I was going to be adopted because I had a past where I was fighting a lot, and I had a lot of problems. I had it in my head that I wasn’t going to get adopted,” Ragan said.
She added that while she watched others age out of the system, she grew close to the others in the group home. They volunteered together.
“My caseworker, Courtney, she always helped me and said, ‘Well, you can get scholarships, you can do this, you can go to college,’ and she always made sure I had a plan. So, I knew at that point I wasn’t going to be homeless like some people that age out would be because a lot of people that I know, they’re afraid to be homeless because they don’t have family members and they don’t have anyone they can really rely on.”
DSS is working to make sure fewer children age out of its foster care system.
Ragan became one of them when she met her adoptive mom through volunteer work.
“I volunteered with some of the girls to do the ‘Velveteen Rabbit.’ We were stagehands,” Ragan remembered. “One of the women, she was Nana in the play, she was talking to another girl on stage and we got into a personal conversation and she was like, ‘Well, I’m a foster mom,’ and I was like, ‘Well, I’m a foster kid.’ And we were like, ‘Oh my gosh what’s the coincidence that we met each other!’
Ragan hit it off with the woman, Rachel, who would become her mom. She said she quickly moved in with Rachel and her husband, Ben. Their two young children became her siblings when she was formally adopted in July of this year.
“I call them mom and dad. And my little siblings Salem and Liam. They’re the funniest people ever. They care for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on the couch or living room and just talked to my mom about A through Z, and cried and laughed, and laughed and then cried. I feel more attached to them than I’ve ever felt anybody else,” Ragan said with a smile.
She said her life has transformed. She’s happy, she has straight A’s and hopes to go to Belmont University to be a nurse.
As the pandemic continues, DSS is proud of its 375 successfully adopted children in 2020 despite the closure of the courts and assisting the state’s education system with finding missing children. Although the number is low compared to previous years.
Ragan offered advice for those looking to adopt and said to get to know the child before judging them.
“In the adoption page, it’s like a ‘Find a Puppy page,’ where it has the description. So, it’s like all the negative things and then one positive about that kid. If Rachel and Ben, my parents, would’ve seen that they wouldn’t have wanted to adopt me. They got to know me personally instead of reading a piece of paper. So, I want to tell people to actually get to know the kid. And see what they say and talk to them and see if you can make a change because even the smallest thing can change the person’s life,” Ragain.
If you’re interested in opening your heart to adopt a child or becoming a foster parent, here are the steps you can take according to DSS:
- Make the call to HeartFelt Calling, (888) 828-3555, and fill out an application or visit www.heartfeltcalling.org
- Attend training to help identify what makes your family the best fit for a waiting young person.
- Meet with an adoption specialist for interviews in your home. Submit medical forms and references. Complete your home’s fire and sanitation inspections.
- A selection committee matches a young person with your family and shares their full background and unique needs.
- Meet the young person and begin getting to know each other with visits and overnight stays.
You are now on the way to your final adoption day!