Stefan and Cindy Gieger recently celebrated the eighth birthday of the newest addition to their Jeffersonville family Cameron, who came to stay with them in April as a foster child and was ultimately adopted by them.
Desire to help transforms (and adds to) Gieger family
Story by Dan Hust
JEFFERSONVILLE December 3, 2013 Three sons and one daughter later, Jeffersonville farmers Cindy and Stefan Gieger had a thought:
Why not go for five?
But instead of the “usual” route, they opted to become foster parents.
“Some kids didn’t have the childhood we had,” Cindy explained.
Well-known today as a county legislator, Cindy grew up one of six in Liberty’s Kurpil family, so she was used to a large family. Plus her and Stefan’s oldest boy was heading off to college.
“We had the farm, we had the room, we had a stable home and loving family,” she said.
“We thought we could help somebody out,” added Stefan.
They took the required 10-week course, passed the home and medical inspections, and ultimately garnered the necessary state certification to be a foster family.
Earlier this year, they met Cameron, a seven-year-old who’d been living in an upstate children’s hospital while his mother wrestled with a drug addiction.
“We just bonded with this kid,” affirmed Cindy. “We decided we were ready.”
Cameron wasn’t as sure, but soon after arriving on April 16, he realized just what he’d lucked into especially after having previously bounced around four different homes.
“He loved the farm, he loved the animals,” Cindy recalled. “You could see he wanted a family more than anything.”
The connection between Cameron and his foster family proved so strong that by the end of this summer, he “officially” became a Gieger, permanently adopted into the close-knit clan.
“After four months, we knew we wanted to adopt,” Cindy affirmed.
Since Cameron’s biological parents had legally terminated their rights, the Giegers were able to finalize the adoption relatively quickly and the state covered all the legal fees.
“We didn’t pay anything,” she said.
But they and Cameron gained a whole lot.
“He has brought such a dynamic into our home,” said Cindy, unable to hide a broad smile whilst relating Cameron’s attainment of his school’s honor roll. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
“Cameron looks like he’s really enjoying it,” Stefan confirmed. “And he has the satisfaction of knowing he’s not going anywhere.”
Indeed, that’s a powerful feeling for any child.
The other day, Cindy asked Cameron, now 8, what he thought of being adopted:
“Happy,” he replied, “because now I have my own family forever and I don't have to be miserable anymore.”
How do you become a foster or adoptive parent?
Story by Dan Hust
SULLIVAN COUNTY Though every situation is unique, Stefan and Cindy Gieger’s experience illustrates how interested couples and families can provide foster or even adoptive homes to children.
According to Sullivan County Health and Family Services Commissioner Randy Parker, Sullivan currently has around 90 children in the foster care system. Approximately 40 of those are teenagers, while the rest are evenly split between ages 0-6 and 6-12.
“We need to have more homes,” Parker urged, noting that if the Giegers had not provided a home for Cameron, he’d likely still be in an upstate children’s hospital.
“They need someone to care about them.”
Sullivan County continues to wrestle with a staffing issue that forced the Giegers to utilize a neighboring county’s personnel to complete the process with Cameron.
But Parker promised that any inquiry to Sullivan County will be answered within 24 hours.
So here’s what to do and expect:
• First, call the Sullivan County Department of Family Services at 292-0100, ext. 3, and tell them you’re interested in foster care and/or adoption.
• Staff will then send out informational material to help you decide what you want to do.
• If you remain interested, the county will then send out a child services worker to inspect the home and discuss possibilities and responsibilities with the entire family.
• Ultimately, you will have to take a 10-week course (locally offered twice a year, including evenings), submit to medical and background screenings, and gain state certification.
“It’s a thorough process,” affirmed Parker, estimating the usual timeline to be around six months.
But it weeds out the committed from the not-so-certain.
“I don’t believe the process is for someone who doesn’t have it in their heart,” acknowledged Cindy.
She and Stefan found the course quite worthwhile.
“The class brought out some points to think about,” explained Stefan, “because an adopted child can be different because of their struggles.”
“They really make you think through how you’d react,” Cindy added.
Families interested in adoption can have the bulk of their costs covered by the county/state if they start out as foster families which Parker encourages, because families strictly seeking to be licensed for adoption, rather than foster care, may never get a call from the county.
Seven children were adopted through Sullivan County this year, but many biological parents retain their parental rights while their children are in foster care.
Unless those rights are terminated (voluntarily by the parents or involuntarily by the state, if certain conditions have not been met), the child could return to his/her original family at any time.
“And that can be difficult for a foster family,” admitted Parker.
Then again, if things aren’t working out for the foster parents, they can also ask the county to place the child elsewhere.
“You can have them in your home for a day, two months, a year,” said Cindy. “Ultimately the goal is to place a child where they’ll flourish, where they’ll be loved.”
There’s a particular need for homes for teenagers, and prospective parents shouldn’t shy away from the thought, thanks to a support system already in place.
“There should be no hesitation on the part of a family contemplating adoption or foster care,” assured Cindy, “because the caseworkers are always right there.”
You may be able to make a lifelong difference not just for a child, but for yourself.
“Too many kids stay in the foster care system,” lamented Parker.
“So take the class,” urged Cindy.