James helps bring families together
By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features Reporter
November is National Adoption month and in recognition, this week's profile is someone who knows quite a bit about adoption. She not only works to place children in homes for adoption, but she herself is an adopted child.
Tracie L. James works with the Escambia County Department of Human Resources. Her job is to see that the welfare of the children under her charge are given the best home and care possible. Foster care falls under her jurisdiction also. There are currently 28 children in the custody of Escambia County. Of these children, only one is in a foster home in this county. The other children are in group facilities, therapeutic homes or relative homes. There are 15 children awaiting adoption. Of the 15 waiting, nine have a placement and six do not.
Times have changed a great deal in the adoption procedure. Thirty to 40 years ago, it was easier to adopt a baby. That is not the case anymore. There are no babies available and the department is not taking applications for them, but there are older children and special needs children who need homes.
Both prospective foster parents and adoptive parents have to go through the procedure of attending classes for 10 weeks (one night a week), have home studies and background checks.
Six steps are needed to finalize an adoption. The prospective parents must meet the requirements; an application has to be submitted; classes and a work study will be made; the approval or disapproval will be made and a match will be made between available children and adoptive parents; a background of the child will be given to the adoptive parents and if they choose to meet with that child, they do so and are able to bring the child home and last, after a waiting period and follow-up visits from the social worker, the child becomes a part of the family by legal adoption within the court system.
Once the adoptive parents are approved, the records go to Montgomery. James and her department assist in any way they can. After the records go to Montgomery, adoptive children are matched with the families who are waiting for a call to come to Montgomery and meet with their child.
Years ago the records would then be sealed, a new birth certificate would be issued and neither the child nor the adoptive parents would know very much about the birth parents. That, too, has changed. Now there is much more openness about the procedure and there may even be some contact between the two sets of parents. It doesn't always happen, but it works for some people.
James has good reason to be interested in adoption. She was adopted at the age of three months and three weeks.
She was born in Alexander City and placed in a foster home straight from the hospital. Her adoptive parents, Billy James and Faye Whitfield, had tried to adopt for about two years and thought two different times that they were getting a baby. Each time something happened to prevent them from getting the child.
In those days the recommendation from DHR (or the Department of Pensions and Security as it was then known) was not to tell anyone about the possibility of bringing a child home from Montgomery when you were told to go up there. Their reasoning was that if anything happened there would be a lot of disappointment.
James grew up in Brewton and attended T.R. Miller High School, graduating in 1992. She attended Jefferson Davis College for two years and worked at her father's furniture store. She became interested in finding out about her biological parents and talked to her parents about the possibility of finding them. They told her what they knew, but wanted her to wait until she was 21 to look further. They thought she would be more mature and could handle whatever she found out.
While she was in college her goal was to work with children and she decided to major in social work. The deciding factor was most probably her own situation.
James later found the sister that had been given up. She feels that the whole experience was one of closure on her adoption. She found out what she wanted to know, but she doesn't have much contact with the biological parents.
James graduated from the University of West Florida in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in social work. She worked with the Southeast Mental Health for a while and in 1998 went to work at DHR. She worked as a jobs case aid to help the other employees set up work sites for those receiving family assistance. In 2000 she was hired as a permanent financial support and jobs case manager. The next year, she became the resource worker. She is able to license foster homes, adoptive homes, daycares and does others things such as home-study and independent adoptions.
James is living the life she loves. She is single, loves cats, loves to shop and spends time at the beach.