Radio personality Wanda Smith said she adores her three sons, but for years felt a little disappointed that she had no daughter whose hair she could style and with whom she could shop for frilly clothes. Then Kennedy came into her life.
One of the speakers at the Nov. 19 National Adoption Day program sponsored by the DeKalb County Department of Family and Children Services, Smith told her personal story to the crowd in the Manuel J. Maloof Auditorium as a way of honoring other adopting parents and encouraging those who are considering adoption.
Smith said that she had not set out to adopt a child, but fate brought her the daughter she had always wanted. When Smith met Kennedy’s birth mom, the young mother had six other children and little income. She was eking out a living entering karaoke competitions. Smith gave the woman a ride home and saw for herself how the family was living.
“She opened the door and there were kids coming from everywhere,” Smith recalled. The home, she said, had “no beds, no food, no pictures on the wall. I realized how blessed I was. I also realized that I needed to help these people.
“I told her story on the radio,” Smith said, and help poured in. She remained close to the family, but Kennedy, 5 years old at the time, especially seemed eager to spend time with “Aunt Wanda.”
The affection was mutual. “I fell in love with her. She even looked like me. Everything seemed so right,” Smith said.
Kennedy’s birth mother agreed to the adoption, but remains very much a part of Kennedy’s life. The mother, who was identified simply as Sabrina, spoke at the program as well. “She (Smith) adopted me first,” Sabrina said. “She was taking care of me before she even knew it,” she added, explaining that the fact that Smith kept naming her the winner of cash prizes in the karaoke competitions provided income that helped her family.
Sabrina said she and Smith now consider each other family. “We laugh together; we cook together. It’s great,” she said.
A number of other new parents who were among the approximately 50 adoptions completed in DeKalb County during the past year brought their sons and daughters for the event, which had the theme, Celebrating A Family for Every Child. Each adopted child in attendance was presented with a teddy bear.
Adoption, the department’s material noted, is both a social and a legal process. DeKalb County judges who are involved in the process were present for the celebration.
“As a mother, I know that there are things every child deserves—someone to read you a bedtime story, someone to cheer for you at your Little League games, someone to call when you forget your lunch money, someone to buy you a musical instrument and come hear you play at your recital,” said Judge Desiree Peagler.
“We have to find the right family for each child,” Peagler said. “It’s not easy to make these matches. The most exciting news I hear is that we’ve completed an adoption. We can close a case out.”
“Even as we commend those parents who have stepped up to the plate and taken on the responsibilities of making a child a member of their family, we must remember that nationwide there still are more than 170,000 children available for adoption,” said Judge Gregory Adams.
An anonymous quote printed on the program seemed to sum up the spirit of the day: “No, I didn’t give you the gift of life, life gave me the gift of you.”