Foster Care Leads To Forever Family In Southeastern Kentucky

CORBIN, Ky. (AP) — After marrying in 2013, Camillia and Ernie Howells knew immediately they wanted children. But after struggling with infertility issues for several years, the couple began looking at other options and took the first steps towards becoming foster parents.

“We wanted to choose foster care instead of just a private adoption because we know the state of Kentucky has so many children in need that need homes,” Camillia said. “There are children that range in age from newborn all the way up to 18 and they all need a forever family. We knew we could easily pay the money to a private agency and adopt a newborn, which is what a lot of people choose and that’s fine but we wanted to help the children that were already in need.”

The Howells were officially licensed to foster children in the state in 2018.

“At first, we didn’t take any permanent placements, we did a lot of respite care, which is where you actually look after other foster parents’ foster kids to give them a break,” Camillia said. “One woman had a sick mother, so she couldn’t take the kid she was fostering for to the hospital each time, so we would watch him. We kind of did that to get our feet wet in the process before we took our first permanent placement.”

The pair welcomed their first foster placement approximately a year after their licensure.

“It was the most happy, exciting but also terrifying time ever because you want them to like you and you want to like them and you want to be able to mesh as a family,” Camillia said.

Their first placement, who was a teenage boy, stayed with the Howells for almost two years before ultimately deciding he didn’t want to be adopted, something that Camillia and Ernie were longing for.

“We decided we wanted to build a forever family, so we took another placement,” Camillia said. “So, that’s what we did and that’s how we found our sweet Elliott.”

Elliott entered the Howells’ lives just after Christmas in 2019.

“We took him out to dinner the first time and I’ll never forget the moment we laid eyes on him, he hopped out of the car and he had a little Santa hat on, it was near Christmas, and he just had the biggest smile on his face and he said ‘hey, I kind of look like you,’” Camillia said. “We just laughed and from that moment, I knew he was meant to be my kid.”

After being in and out of multiple homes, Elliott was also looking for his forever family.

“It just seemed like every home he went to just wasn’t the right fit for him,” Camillia said. “They couldn’t find a right fit for Elliot. They sent out his referral and from what I understand, over 750 different families in the state accepted Elliott—they said ‘yes.’ So, just because you say yes, obviously doesn’t mean you’re going to get the child but out of all of those families, his social worker chose us for him. She thought we would be the best fit. And she was right.”

Now, almost two years later, the Howells are celebrating the adoption of their “sweet Elliott” who is now 7 years old.

Elliott officially became a part of the Howells family on May 14.

Camillia said she and Ernie were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief once it became official.

“I didn’t feel like I could relax until the judge said ‘it’s official, he’s yours’ and the gavel struck,” she said. “We were excited and happy and nervous. It was a lot of not knowing what to expect and being very exciting.

“There is a peace that came the day after the adoption that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain, maybe other adoptive parents feel too, but it’s the end of the whole journey came to this moment. The peace that Ernie and I feel that nothing and no one can take our child from us, he is ours officially—it’s a very comforting and peaceful feeling to know that we can just live our lives now and be the family and have the family we’ve always wanted.”

Camillia said this likely won’t be the end of their foster care and adoption journey, though.

“Elliott has definitely made it extremely clear to us that he wants siblings and it’s like he tells us every day he wants a sister, so we definitely are not closing our hearts or our home to the option of another child,” Camillia said. “We think once it’s all said and done, two will be our number. So we’re looking forward to maybe, in the future, giving a home to another kid.”

After going through the process of fostering and now adopting a child, Camillia encourages other families to look into foster care as an option, as it is what helped the Howells to finally find their “forever family.”

“Keep an open mind,” Camillia said. “Keep an open mind in all aspects—what type of child you think would work best in your home. Our first placement was a teenager, which was something that we didn’t initially want and expect but he taught us so much and we learned so much from him and we hope that we taught him a few things along the way as well. I think keep an open mind and be patient because what is meant to happen will happen in the end.”