Adoption gives Midlands parents new definition of 'family'

The Kelty family
The Kelty family
Susan Elizabeth talks with Spencer Kelty about his new life
Susan Elizabeth talks with Spencer Kelty about his new life
Susan-Elizabeth ice skates Allissa, a child available for adoption
Susan-Elizabeth ice skates Allissa, a child available for adoption

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - By the numbers - there's a very good chance you know someone who has had trouble having kids or has thought about adoption either through an international service or a private adoption.

In South Carolina, there are 5,000 children who are in the foster care system and hundreds of them are ready for adoption through the Department of Social Services.

The Kelty family decided to adopt from their own South Carolina town.

Genetics say they're not related, but Mom says they are. "Family isn't about being bonded by blood, it's about helping someone to be the best person they can be," said Colleen Kelty. "I honestly think I'm a much better person because of my kids."

She wasn't always a mom, and that was the problem. Colleen and Willie Kelty met in the Army in Texas, and married 14 years ago. They tried to have kids, but instead she had miscarriages -- five of them, including two sets of twins.

"Going through all the infertility problems, the miscarriages, I realized it wasn't about being a birth mom, it was just about being a mom," said Kelty.

So they decided to adopt from DSS. "I just feel like if everyone can feel part of a family and be loved, why not just adopt kids in our state, kids that are right here," said Kelty.

After 14 hours of training and house inspections, the Keltys got a call to come to DSS. Once they got there, someone handed them a notebook that would change their lives forever.

"I guess I just looked at his eyes, and I knew immediately that he was ours," said Kelty.

Days later, Spencer, a 4-year-old who had been abused and neglected and moved from place to place, was now home. "He walked in, swung the door open, said,'"awesome!'" said Kelty. "A few minutes later I caught him standing on my glass coffee table and I was like, 'we're not doing that in this house. That's not gonna happen."

Five years later, Spencer -- who was labeled special needs -- is most certainly a standout. An athlete, a model and a fisherman, he is also a big brother.
DSS asked the Keltys if they'd be interested in an infant. Spencer was game, and Kylie joined the family. Then they got another call, and took in little Madison.

We asked Colleen to define 'family.' "Love, caring, giving. Spencer, Kylie, Madison -- family," she said. "I don't think blood matters."

According to DSS spokeswoman Judy Caldwell, the hardest children to place are older males, children of color, children with special needs and sibling groups. "We need families who can accept large sibling groups, who can take older children," said Caldwell. "We need families who can deal with the emotional grief strength the children have experienced."

Rita Hunter, a case worker with DSS, works to find permanent homes for teens who have been cleared for adoption. "We have a lot of families come in, they want younger children or babies and I think they assume younger I get the children, less behaviors they're gonna have and that's not always true," said Hunter. "[With teens] what you see is what you get."

Caldwell said children with special needs are harder to place in homes than others. also on that list are teens, children of color, males and sibling groups.

Quentin, 15, falls right into that group. He's an avid reader, a huge Harry Potter fan, a polished roller skater and has a list of things he wants to try. "Rugby, bungy jumping out of an airplane, riding in an airplane, I've never done that," he said.

After five foster homes, he is up for adoption from the state. "I'm nervous when I do move," he said. "You never know the outlook people might have, you don't know if they'll approve of you, but you get used to it."

"It's painful for the child, painful for that family and its not helping that child to find permanency and stability," said Caldwell. "It's making that child feel like nobody wants them. So we ask our families to do a lot of soul searching."

DSS also ask families who want to foster or adopt to complete training, extensive background checks and home inspections by DHEC.

There are 661 in the state ready to be adopted. "My ideal home is where they love and accept you for who you are," said Quentin.

Quentin's plan after he finds that family is to go to college. He wants to go to Harvard.

Call 1-888-227-3487 for more information about adoption.

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