National Adoption Month 2017: Teens need families, no matter what

Written by Lisa Johnson, Coast Guard Family Support Services Program Manager

“This month, let us celebrate the gift of adoption — an act of love that provides deserving young people with the foundation they need to achieve their potential and pursue the American Dream.” – President Donald J. Trump 

This year’s theme, “Teens Need Families, No Matter What,” centers on teenagers who have spent years in foster care needing the commitment and care of a loving family to help them transition into adulthood. If you’re thinking about adoption, consider opening your heart and your home to a teen.

At least 25 children have new homes this year thanks to Coast Guard members and their families. Please enjoy some of the inspirational stories of your shipmates adoption journeys:

Lt. Fannie Wilks and Family

“Our first adoption was in 2013. Never in a million years would we have expected it to change the trajectory of our life as it has. Did you know that there are over 143 million children who have been orphaned in our world? Did you know that there are over 440,000 children who are in foster care here in the U.S.? Children live their lives day after day in orphanages with little hope of a future. Our hearts have been forever changed (and as you can see by our photo, so has our family!) Adoption is a blessing. In December 2016 we traveled back to China to bring two more amazing children into our family. The support we received from Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and the Coast Guard’s adoption reimbursement program have been so helpful in allowing us to adopt again. Adoption is expensive, and the funding we received from the Coast Guard has been amazingly helpful. We are excited about the upcoming changes to adoption leave policies as well. These will greatly benefit these children and their families who are adjusting to so many changes in such a short period of time. The policies also show our service’s commitment to our Coast Guard families, no matter how those families come together.”


Capt. Richard Wester and family

“We adopted Wade from Mumbai, India, and brought him home shortly after New Year’s this year. Despite being in the U.S. now for only 10 months and having to learn English from scratch, he is now fluent and is learning his letters in Pre-K. He enjoys playing with his older brothers outside, playing soccer, coloring, and swimming.”



Lt. Walter Hutchins and family

“My wife, Melissa, and I started the adoption process back in 2011 in an attempt to adopt an 18-month-old boy from a Ugandan orphanage. We worked on that for three years and got to the point where we went to the village and spent a month with him, fully expecting to bring him home after the courts ruled.

Unfortunately, the judge in that district had changed during our adoption process and the new judge took a hard stance on not adopting out Ugandan children to foreigners. We had to return Nathan to the orphanage and fly home, where we did a lot of praying on what to do next.

We contacted a friend who had completed three domestic adoptions. She put us in touch with an outstanding adoption agency. We completed the pile of documents (again) and waited almost a year to the day until we got a call of a young lady about to go into labor who tentatively picked us to adopt her child. The adoption was finalized in September 2016 and she just celebrated her second birthday.

It has been an amazing, eye-opening experience that has resulted in three amazing children. Our adoption is an open one, and we have committed to remain in touch with our daughter’s birth-family. We’ve met them multiple times, met extended family members, and continue to enjoy the adoption journey.”


Petty Officer 1st Class Carleigh Long and family

“Love makes us family.”









Senior Chief Petty Officer Dave McQuade and family

“After years of trying to adopt, Victoria and I were given the opportunity to become the parents of twin boys, Sebastian and Isaiah. The joy that our sons have brought into our lives is indescribable, and we can’t imagine life without them.”








Petty Officer 1st Class Adam McPhail and family

“In 2009, I met my wife, Jennifer, while I was stationed in Clearwater, Florida. She had a 2-year-old son Jacob. As we dated and got to know each other, she introduced him to me. The bond that we created was indescribable. I have always expressed interest in adopting Jacob. Jennifer just wanted to wait for the right time. We had our court date March 1, 2017, and our wish was granted! Jacob was finally a McPhail!

Excitement was an understatement on how we all felt! Having the Adoption Reimbursement Program available put our minds as ease while going through the process.”


The below resources can provide assistance with the Adoption Reimbursement process:

1. Adoption Reimbursement Program: Coast Guard active duty members and reservists on active duty for at least 180 consecutive days are eligible for reimbursement of up to $2,000 per child, per year, and a maximum of $5,000 in any calendar year.

2. Coast Guard Support Program or CG SUPRT: Assists Coast Guard personnel and their families with adoption resources. They can be contacted at 855-CGSUPRT or 855-247-8778.

3. Coast Guard Mutual Assistance for adoption: Coast Guard Mutual Assistance offers two types of assistance directly related to the legal adoption of a child: an interest-free loan up to $6,000 for qualified expenses relating to the adoption; and a grant, not to exceed $3,000, for the cost of a home study fee.

To help promote and support National Adoption Month, visit the Health and Human Services website or click here to learn the history of National Adoption Month. To locate the Work-Life staff at your Health, Safety and Work-Life Regional Practice, call 800-872-4957.


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