By Natalie Costa –
Sunshine State Adoption & Home Study Services, a 501(c)3, is doing its part to help bridge the divide that separates children from a loving family. Founded in 2009 by Debra Hewitt, M.S., Sunshine State Adoption provides support right here in the College Park community.
To date, the U.S. has made efforts to collect more information surrounding the adoption community to better inform its citizens. The data suggests there are over 7 million adult adoptees in America and 1.5 million child adoptees.
According to Adoption.org, “about 140,000 children are adopted every year and there are nearly half a million children in the U.S. foster care system.”
Hewitt, who has been in the field for 12 years, has always had a special place in her heart for adoption. She explains, “My husband and I personally adopted two children from China and one from Guatemala.”
She elaborates, “There was a great need for our services, and we knew there were so many children in the world that needed a nurturing home; it was our calling.”
This notion has been made exceedingly clear by the happy families she supports in their mission to build a family.
Rebecca and Drew Sheahan’s family shares their story: “Debra is very special to us, since she helped us find our way in the overwhelming, often scary adoption world. We will always be thankful for her since without her we would not be parents!”
It’s no surprise that there is an outpouring of support for Hewitt’s initiatives.
Sunshine State specializes in Florida Home Study, which is, according to its website, “a visit to your home by a trained social worker to determine the readiness of both your family and your home atmosphere for placement of adopted child.”
Furthermore, Sunshine State Adoption doesn’t just serve the College Park community; they span all of Florida and don’t charge for mileage or travel fees.
Hewitt acknowledges that several families from College Park proper (about four families per year) have used the services of the adoption agency, and for the most part, recognition has spread purely by word of mouth.
In fact, Rebecca says, “It was only a month after we were home study approved when we were matched through an adoption lawyer in Jacksonville with a young birth mother who wanted to make an adoption plan for her unborn baby. We were thrilled! The baby was due to be born right before Christmas of 2011, so we thought we would be having a Christmas baby and couldn’t wait.”
To the profound dismay of the Sheahan family, the young mother decided not to go through with the adoption, leaving Rebecca and Drew painfully disappointed and financially drained.
During her time of need, Rebecca reached out to Debra who listened and talked her through the heartbreaking event. “She was a source of comfort and encouragement,” Rebecca explains.
To remedy the situation, Hewitt contacted a local adoption agency that was able to match the Sheahans with a baby boy.
Most home studies are completed within 30 days and require face-to-face visits. However, Hewitt is quick to emphasize that families should use the agency they feel most comfortable with.
She says, “Although we are fully licensed to place children, we mainly focus on home studies, and we try to hold new parents’ hands and consult with them when they need our advice.”
Located right on Vassar Street, Sunshine State Adoption has received recognition for its work in adoption consulting, domestic and international adoptions, and post adoption services. Now, with the advent of Facebook, she has had the experience of watching these adopted children grow up right before her eyes.
For new parents that are tentative of the challenges starting a new family can present, it is comforting to know that almost every social worker from Sunshine State Adoption has personally adopted so they can, as Hewitt shares, “help the babies thrive in their new home.”
Perhaps it is better said by someone who has experienced the joys of adoption due to Hewitt’s services: “I am so thankful for [Debra] and her passion. When it comes time for us to renew our home study so we can adopt again, she will be my first call.”
To learn more, attend a Sunshine State Adoption event for informational meetings that explore getting started with adoption.
In addition, Hewitt and her team feature frequently asked questions on their blog, which can be seen here: http://sunshinehomestudy.org/blog/