Thousands of children waiting in Texas to be adopted

Nearly three years is the average wait for a child in foster care to be adopted.

Right now, more than 117,000 children in the U.S. are waiting in foster care for an adoptive family.

As part of National Adoption Month, several adoptions in Bowie County were recently finalized.

The ceremony showcased the need for more people to consider adopting, or fostering a child.

Five families in Bowie County, Texas were all smiles as family Judge Jeff Addison officially transformed their families from foster to parental care.

The adoption hearing was made public to encourage people to consider adopting a child.

Matt and Ashley Gunther adopted 17-month old Connor Reed Gunther.

"I think it's a calling. It's something you can pray about. I wasn't looking to adopt, but I think it's what the Lord wanted us to do," explained Ashley Gunther.

Not every child that needs a family gets one.

While more than 5,600 children were adopted into their own forever family last year, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Adoption Specialist Paige Formby says more children are entering foster care every day.

"There are many children waiting for their forever families, and many children here locally that need a family to call their own," said Formby.

In Bowie County, there are 71 children in foster care and 29 waiting to be adopted.

While state officials say Texas is doing a better job at finding homes for abused and neglected children, there is still a critical need for adoptive parents for children of all ages.

In the state of Texas, there are 3,800 children and teenagers waiting to be adopted.

According to the Texas DFPS, older children tend to stay in foster care longer.

"Alot of times teenagers don't feel there is a family for them. They've kind of lost hope, so it's very special when you have a teenager who find their family," said Formby.

The Hicks family from Maud, Texas adopted 17-year old Chance Sprague.

"He's always been ours, but officially now that he's really ours on paper, I'm just so excited," said Candice and Christopher Hicks.

Chance began staying with the family on and off five years ago, but they officially began the process of adoption a year ago.

He's now one of five siblings.

"So much relief, I feel so much better. A weight lifted off my chest. I feel home," said Sprague.

The Hicks family say the process to adopt was challenging, but they believe it's been all worth it.

"I think more people need to adopt. Anything worth doing isn't going to be easy." said Candice Hicks.

The Gunthers agree that making the adoption official feels like a big relief.

They're now ready to move forward together.

"We are just excited, blessed, and very thankful to be his parents and be a happy family," said Ashley Gunther.

The minimum age you must be to adopt a child in Texas is 21.

For more information about becoming an adoptive parent, visit adoptchildren.org.

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