Dozens of families grow as year draws to a close
December 27, 2013
The Sklenar family — Nick, Jacky, 8-year-old Jackson and 6-year-old Nolan — adopted 3-year-old Lena Nov. 23.
Adoption services throughout Iowa
Iowa KidsNet, www.iowakidsnet.com, 1-800-243-0756
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa Inc., Sioux City, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa Inc., www.scdiocese.org, 712-255-7933
Bethany Christian Services of South Central Iowa, Des Moines, www.bethany.org, 1-888-791-3981
Holt International Children's Services, Le Grand, www.holtinternational.org, 1-888-355-4658
Hillcrest Family Services, Cedar Rapids & Dubuque, www.hillcrest-fs.org, 1-877-437-6333
The day before 3-year-old Lena Sklenar's adoption was finalized, she decided - her parents joked later - to test their commitment to her by extinguishing their 46-inch flatscreen TV with a few carefully aimed sprays of a water bottle.
The incident was forgotten the next day, though, as her parents, Nick and Jacky Sklenar, of Glidden, signed the papers that made Lena's adoption into their family final.
She was one of several dozen children who were adopted throughout the state Nov. 23 - National Adoption Day.
'Looking for families'
As of August 2013, there were more than 620 children legally eligible for adoption in Iowa - meaning, parental rights had been terminated, said Jill Stone, a post-adoption support specialist with Iowa KidsNet, a collaboration of six agencies that provides recruitment, training and support for foster and adoptive homes.
"Many will be adopted by relatives or current foster families, but some are still searching for their forever home," she said.
The Department of Human Services, which works closely with Iowa KidsNet, finds adoptive families for children in foster care; the majority of them have been removed from their birth parents because of abuse or neglect.
"We always attempt to reunify children with their biological families," Stone said. "It's only after that doesn't happen that the children are eligible for adoption."
Because of this, children adopted through the Department of Human Services rather than a private adoption agency are typically a bit older.
"With private adoptions, they look for children for families," Stone said. "With us, we're looking for families for children. We try to match a family to a child's needs rather than look for what a family wants."
For those who are not able or ready to adopt a child, there are many options for donations, including nonprofit agencies such as Share My Smile, which benefits foster children and families.
Those who want to adopt a child have several options. They can become foster parents first, or they can simply be identified as prospective adoptive parents with Iowa KidsNet. More information is available at www.iowakidsnet.com or by calling 1-800-243-1756. There are also a number of private adoption agencies throughout Iowa.
'It's been a joy'
The Sklenar family began planning for Lena even before she was born.
After their second son, Nolan, who has cerebral palsy, was born prematurely, they decided to look into adoption.
"We wanted to have another child ... but we didn't want to risk having a biological child," Jacky Sklenar said.
For several years, they talked about the possibility before deciding to adopt through foster care. They took classes and became licensed before becoming foster parents to a little girl - not Lena, but the child they said prepared them for her.
In May, they received word that they had been approved to adopt a 2-year-old girl to join Nolan, 6, and Jackson, 8. Several days later, they met her for the first time.
"We were so nervous," Sklenar said. "As we were driving up, we were thinking, we're going to go meet our daughter. How are you supposed to act or feel? We were so excited, though."
Lena, who had never known her birth father, was immediately drawn to "Daddy Nick" and was sitting on his lap within moments of meeting the Sklenars.
Soon after, Lena came to live with the family for a six-month pre-adoptive period.
The period is intended to keep adoptive parents from returning children to the system soon after adopting them.
"For us, though, that was not an option," Sklenar said. "When we met her, she was ours."
Nolan, 6, and Jackson, 8, now have a little sister - and to watch the family, it would seem Lena had always lived with them.
"We're outnumbered now; Nick and I are outnumbered," Sklenar said. "It's been an adjustment, but it's been a joy. She just fit in our family from Day 1. This was a dream of ours, to have another child."