National Adoption Awareness Month begins today, culminating with National Adoption Day on Nov. 23
Started in 2000 thanks to a concerted effort between The Alliance for Children's Rights, Children's Action Network, Freddie Mac Foundation and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
The aim is to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care right now just waiting for a loving, permanent home.
Megan and Josh Weber are Bellaire natives living in?Columbus. The couples family became complete when they were able to adopt, Marissa, 5, left and then Aliyah, 4. They are joined by the family’s pet Labrador Roscoe.
For one day, judges, social workers and policy makers put their collective talents to use to push through and finalize adoptions while also celebrating the families who are helping to make the dreams of having a family come true.
One Ohio couple has made it their mission to speak on behalf of the adoption process, serving as advocates and offering their assistance to any prospective parents who are exploring the option to adopt.
They had a family walk them through the steps of the process when they first sought to adopt. It was an invaluable help.
"We've counseled a couple of couples the last few years," Josh Weber said. "We were really blessed to have some close friends go through (the process) and we were able to get introduced to another couple.
"To have people with those experiences, being able to draw from that experience and ask questions, is a huge help.
"If there's a moment where we can sing the praises of adoption, we try to do it."
If anyone knows the positive impact adoption can have, it's Weber and his wife Megan.
Both Josh and Megan grew up in Bellaire, gravitating to the Columbus area after graduating and getting married.
Like most young couples, they soon set out to begin their family.
But as life is sometimes apt to do, it wasn't cooperating with their plan.
"We struggled with the unknown of infertility, countless doctors appointments and we were flushing money down the toilet with nothing coming from it," Megan said. "We came to a fork in the road and after a few years of trying with no luck, we decided to look into adoption."
Most couples initially sign up with an adoption agency, attend an orientation and then begin the process.
Because the Webers were in troduced to a social worker through their friends, they were able to have their home study completed first. That enable them to seek out a birth mother on their own.
"We had a profile explaining about our family and telling why we wanted to adopt," Megan said. "We did that for a year."
Once a home study is completed, it's valid for two years. If it expires, the adoptive family must go through the process again.
Fearing that they might run out of time, the Weber's eventually signed on with an agency.
They were matched with a birth mother rather quickly.
Megan explained that, because she and Josh didn't have any preferences in terms of race or gender, they were matched quicker than another family who might have been looking for a more specific baby.
They were matched with a mother in Oct. 2007, four months into the young woman's pregnancy.
The Webers met the mother, talked with her numerous times and had contact all the way through as her delivery date neared.
But again, life decided to throw the Webers another detour in their quest to start a family.
As February neared, they received a call from their social worker that the mother had decided to parent the baby and no longer needed an adoption plan.
"You are already attached to the child, whether it was in Megan's womb or someone else's," Josh said. "You've given it a name and have started thinking about the day you get to see her and when that reality is taken away, it's heart wrenching and difficult.
"Luckily, within 10 days or so, we got a firm lesson that everything happens for a reason, when we got a call about Marissa."
Marissa is the Weber's 5-year-old daughter. She'll turn six in February.
The birth mother and prospective family had less than a month to get acquainted and ready for the birth. But the transition was seamless.
The second time around, the Webers were able to be with the mother nearly every stop of the way.
It's not an experience many adoptive parents get to have.
The Webers' youngest daughter, Aliyah's birth mother was five months pregnant when she was matched with the Webers.
Megan and Josh were able to go to every ultrasound appointment. They were there in the delivery room. Josh was even able to cut the cord.
In Ohio, the birth mother has wait 72 hours before she can legally surrender her rights.
It's probably the toughest decision any young mother makes. Megan witnessed this first hand.
"To witness how heartbroken she was, I wish every adopted couple could see that," Megan said. "We've had people question our girls' mothers as to how they could give up their child. You could see how much she truly loved (Aliyah). But this was the best plan for her, for her daughter. It hurt to do it, but she knew it was the right decision.
"But every adoptive couple should witness this to know that these mothers are not just giving up their children. They truly love them."
What once was a family of two now stands at four - five if you count the family's beloved Labrador Retriever.
The Webers are very open about their adoption experience, both with fellow families and also their daughters.
Both Marissa and Aliyah know their adoption story. They also know who their birth mothers are.
"Early on, we got books about adoption and we'd read them the stories," Megan said. "It's natural to them. We celebrate their adoption day and each girl has her own adoption story book."
"I never want someone to say to our girls that they are adopted, like it's a bad thing. I want them to be able to proudly stand up and say, 'Yes I am.'"
Each girl also has a picture of herself and her birth mother on their dresser in her room.
The Webers try to keep in contact with the girls' birth mothers, sending them updates and pictures. They also have an open door policy, should the mom's want to drop by for a visit as both are Ohio residents.
"We had to think of the girls and how they would feel if they knew their birth mom was reaching out to them and we said no," Megan said. "Both of these women are wonderful women. We love them so much. We want the girls to have whatever type of relationship with (their birth mothers) that they want."
The road that was traveled in building the Webers family may have had more than its fair share of bumps. But it's one that neither would trade for anything. They have what they've always wanted, a loving, caring family. And that's what Marissa and Aliyah's mothers wanted for their daughters as well.
And through the power of adoption, they have it.
"Words could never express how grateful we are to these amazing women for the incredible gift they have given us, the gift of a family," Megan added.
Hughes may be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org