By John Kennett, Reposted from Midland Daily News
Two and a half years ago, Paul and Kim White were content with their family of three boys.
However, all of that changed in March 2010 when the Arc of Midland reached out to Kim with an immediate need for a safe house for a 5-year-old boy. The Whites responded, opened up their home, and two years later added a fourth son, Eric, to their family.
As a result of their perseverance and faith during the adoption of Eric, the Whites have been awarded the Angels in Adoption award, sponsored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of safe and loving homes.
“Through persistence, determination and faith, Kim and Paul White were able to provide Eric a permanent, stable and loving place in their family and home through adoption,” U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, said. “I am honored to highlight their story as a true testament to the successes and benefits of adoption.”
Angels in Adoption, CCAI’s signature public awareness program, provides an opportunity for all members of the U.S. Congress to honor their constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans.
“I believe every child deserves a family,” said Camp. “Angels in Adoption highlights the people in every community who work toward that goal by opening their hearts and homes to children in need of permanent, safe and loving homes.”
On March 4, 2010, Eric was in dire need of a safe house. While at an Arc committee meeting, Kim agreed to provide housing for Eric and proceeded to call Paul.
“When do I get to meet him?” responded Paul, who had just gotten out of a Midland Noon Rotary Club meeting. “In less than 35 seconds we had added another son to our family.”
At 4 p.m. that same afternoon, Paul got to meet the new addition to their family of Luke, 16, Adam, 14, who has Down’s syndrome and John, 11.
“It wasn’t something we were pursuing,” Paul said. “(Eric) had a challenging first five years.”
Instead of a quick adoption, the Whites had to persevere for two years.
“We thought the adoption process would take four months, instead it took two years and one day,” said Paul. “The biological father was in prison and didn’t want to have his parental rights removed. He fought us all the way to prevent the necessary steps toward adoption.”
The case ended up in the courts and was finally settled when the State of Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a ruling of the Midland County Probate Court to terminate the parental rights of Eric’s biological father.
“During the course of the guardianship proceeding, it was even more apparent that the White’s were the answer to Eric’s needs both physically and psychologically,” said Midland County Probate Court Judge Dorene Allen. “They are a loving family — their biological children have absolutely accepted Eric into their lives.”
The Whites stood before Allen on March 5 to finalize the adoption.
“Eric was sitting between Kim and I,” said Paul. “He stands up, puts his arms out to both sides and said, ‘I love my mom and my dad and I love my brothers.’ He never questioned in his mind that this was forever. I’ll remember this day the rest of our life.”
An additional reward came as Eric settled in as a family member.
“One of the great successes of this is that every single day he wakes up happy,” said Paul. “When he is waking, he has a look on his face of peaceful gratitude. He realizes how fortunate he is and how much we love him.”
As a celebration of their family, all six of the Whites made the trip to Washington, D.C., for the Angels in Adoption award.
“We’re treating it as a family time,’ said Paul of their trip that began Saturday.
The highlight of their time will be the Angels in Adoption Pin Ceremony at the Rayburn House Office Building when the Whites will be presented with a pin in a graduation type ceremony by Camp.
“They’ve changed one little boy’s life forever,” said Arc Executive Director Jan Lampman, who went to Washington with the Whites. “You couldn’t find two better parents for all four of their children.”
After the pin ceremony, it’s the Angels in Adoption Gala on Wednesday evening, where the Whites will be recognized with more than 100 other Angels along with three National Angels. This year’s National Angels include singer/songwriter Ne-Yo, People magazine along with Katherine Heigl and Josh Kelley.
Past national award winners have included Bruce Willis, Muhammad Ali, First Lady Laura Bush and Patti LaBelle.
“This is something Kim and I couldn’t have done without our parish, neighbors, family and loving support from the community,” said Paul. “I feel like anybody at Rotary would do anything for me and I would do anything for them. We are surrounded by just an incredible group of angels from so many backgrounds in our community: rich, poor, educated, uneducated. I don’t know how we will ever be able to properly thank everyone that has done things for us.”