Although 2020 has been a difficult year for so many, one family in Wilmington has much to be thankful for this year. After two years, Matthew and Kate Ertsos officially and legally became the adoptive parents of three young children: seven-year old Lily, five-year old Russell and two-year old Colton. The Ertsos’ went from no children to three children literally overnight. Talk about a full house.
When it comes to adoption, agencies always try and keep siblings together, hence why Kate and Matthew wound up with three children. It sounds crazy, but Kate said she and her husband knew they always wanted siblings. They both come from big families - Kate is one of three siblings and her husband is one of five - so it made sense for the two of them.
“We didn’t have a number in mind,” Kate said about how many children they wanted to adopt, adding they simply knew it was right.
She said it “surprised us we felt these were our kids and we wanted to meet them.”
The two never hesitated and “jumped in with two feet. We felt ready to have a bunch of kids.”
But why adoption? Kate said she and her husband always talked about it once they got married. They were fortunate to have a supportive family that Kate said were really excited when they found out she and her husband began the process.
“They were definitely encouraging,” she acknowledged.
Adoption can be a long process: a year or so for certification which includes meeting with a social worker and being subjected to background checks, then another year of living with the children and monthly meetings with your own social worker and the children’s, plus their attorney.
The process actually moved rather quickly for the Ertsos’, according to Kate, yet their youngest, Colton, wasn’t even born when it began. In fact, the Ertsos’ didn’t see or meet any children until they were fully licensed.
Just getting that license took hard work: classes, interviews (together and separately), an application full of questions to really vet people, references (Kate received some from her brother, friends and boss), and getting the home up to code.
“Once you receive the license, you can start looking at their profiles,” Kate shared.
When she and her husband found the profiles of Lily, Russell and Colton, they were hooked. The next step involved contacting their own social worker who then contacted the children’s social worker. The two worked with the Home for Little Wanderers (who contracts with the Department of Children and Families) and MARE (Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange).
The children then spent a year with the family before the adoption was final. This year included monthly check-ins with two social workers (theirs and the children’s) and the children’s attorney. Kate and Matthew also could only leave the children with specific people before the adoption became legal.
As luck would have it, the adoption was finalized on National Adoption Day, which this year fell on Friday the 13th of November (a total coincidence but perhaps some serendipity; especially in this year where nothing is as it seems, a beautiful thing should occur on a day normally reserved for superstitions and evil and fright).
For Kate and Matthew, adopting three young children worked out especially well because as Kate pointed out, older children have to accept you. Which isn’t to say that agencies force young children to go anywhere; in fact, all children are asked what they want their forever family to look like.
It also helps to work with wonderful people, as Kate said she and her husband’s social worker did a great job, as did the children’s and their attorney.
How do you know? That remains the toughest question as it relates to choosing which children to adopt.
“You know when you know,” Kate acknowledged. “We felt peaceful about moving forward, very natural.”
She added how “if it’s not meant to be, it won’t work out. If it’s meant to be, it’ll work out.”
Kate and her husband know about the birth parents. In an open adoption, the birth parents know who’s adopting their child(ren) and they can receive updates and potentially remain in contact; in a closed adoption, no one knows anything.
Kate said she and her husband have a good relationship with the birth parents. For the three young children, though, the adoption is their story to tell. The family talked about it and are open about it. Kate said that although she hasn’t specifically talked to Colton, she doesn’t hide anything.
“We’ve been positive and honest,” she admitted about how she and her husband talk about the situation.
She added how teachers made it a happy experience for Lily and Russell.
The kids themselves are adapting well, Kate said, adding how they live in a “great neighborhood” and have a “good family.” She said they’re thriving in school and with sports.
For Lily and Russell, who lived in other homes, Kate said they feel a “sense of peace.”
When asked about the possibility of adopting more children or fostering children, Kate couldn’t commit to anything, simply saying, “I’m content with three.” Though she did add she doesn’t know what the future holds.
For others, though, Kate definitely recommends adoption, in fact she said she “can’t recommend it enough. It’s the reason we agreed to talk to the media; we hope we can encourage others.”
According to MARE, 9,600 children remain in foster care with 2,800 ready for adoption. 850 children currently don’t have an identified match and continue to wait for a permanent adoptive family.
“It’s nerve-wracking and you don’t know what to expect,” Kate admitted about adoption, but added it’s no different than traditional child birth.
Well, one difference may be the lack of time to adjust. With a newborn, parents can ease themselves into childcare. Not so much when you adopt.
“It was nerve wracking at first,” Kate said, “but the kids instantly made it less awkward. They were so excited to play and show us their toys. It felt natural pretty quickly, even though it took longer for us to really process that we got to have them forever!”