“Everybody walks up to us and says to us, ‘[You have] done such a wonderful thing,’ but I think he’s blessed us as much as we’ve been able to bless him because he [has such] a unique personality,” Robb Kittle said. “I guess we thought [with] him being older that it was just going to be [an] easy [fit]. Our children are 18 months apart and he’s right in-between the two of them. So all three of them are now in-between 18 months apart.
“But just adding a fifth person changes the dynamic of the family, period,” he said, providing examples, such as needing to purchase a vehicle and dining at a larger table to accommodate a family of five. “... So [it is important to make] those changes and [realize] we have to embrace the whole situation and make everybody have a spot and feel comfortable. ... [All of our children], they’re doing well. When you see them, you never would think they’ve not been together their whole entire life. Timothy looks just like our [other] children and they act just like brothers and sisters. They argue, but they are the first ones to defend or take up for us. So they love each other completely and it’s been amazing to watch.”
As the principal of Emerson Elementary School, Kittle was first introduced to Timothy when he enrolled at his school last year. Having previously looked into adoption, he and his wife were very receptive to providing a permanent home for Timothy when they learned of his situation.
“We have two biological children and wanted to have a third,” Kittle said. “My wife just had some health issues with both of our pregnancies ... [so] she brought up one day, ‘Let’s look at adoption.’ ... We started looking at it a couple of years ago and started some foster parenting classes and just realized with where our kids were in school and their activities, it just was not — we thought — what God wanted. The doors were just not opening as far as scheduling and trying to get to the classes. So we let that door shut.
“[Then] Timothy enrolled here as a fifth-grader last school year. He was [residing at] Flowering Branch [Children’s Shelter] and [I] got to know the workers there and a comment was made to me once school started in October about wishing he could get adopted. I [told them] we looked into adoption, but the door closed the last time we tried and they were like, ‘Can I get your name and number’ and I said, ‘Sure.’ ... [During] first week in February, I got a call from DFCS saying, ‘Your name just came across my desk and we heard that you were interested in adopting this child.’ ... As a family, we knew that was something that was on our hearts, but we knew it was all in God’s hands. ... So I called back and [I] said, ‘Yes.’ And they sent us over some paperwork and we started immediately getting the process rolling.”
Participating in Bartow County DFCS’ fostering-to-adopt program, the Kittle family started visiting Timothy three times a week at Flowering Branch in February. After being able to spend time with Timothy at their Cartersville home for an extended period, he moved in with the Kittles in May and the adoption was finalized Nov. 13. For Kittle, their adoption journey has been a heartwarming experience that has resulted in seeing Timothy prosper amongst his new family.
“I see a difference just in the value he has in himself,” Kittle said. “I think he knows he has a purpose, that God’s given him a family so he has a role to fill. He’s a son. He’s a brother. He’s a grandson. He’s a friend. So I think he takes those roles with pride now and he’s proud of his family. He’s proud of having the extended family and being able to go to ... family functions.
“... Just the love that he has for them and they have for them, [it is wonderful to see]. He’s one of their grandchildren, and he’s our child. It’s really amazing. ... Through all he’s been through and what life has given him, I’ve always said from the beginning he has the strongest moral compass and the sweetest spirit and the [most tender] heart that you’ll ever meet.”
To the delight of Bartow County DFCS’ staff, the Kittles’ successful journey is one of many recorded this year.
“It’s pretty exciting for them toward the end of the case to finally get that permanent family for these children,” said Susan Ollis, services administrator for Bartow County DFCS. “We try very hard to make sure children don’t linger in foster care. It’s really important for them to either be returned to their own families, be placed with relatives or to find that forever family through an adoptive home. So it’s a lot of work, but it’s really worth it in the end to see children placed with that forever family.”
With more than 50 children in state custody being adopted, Bartow County DFCS Director Lynn Green said several factors account for this year’s high number of finalizations.
“We have finalized  adoptions ... this year,” Green said. “That is higher than in years past. There’s a couple of different reasons. We have had some more children coming into foster care and ... there seems to be some more serious issues with families than in years past — more serious cases, which lead eventually to either termination of parental rights or parents voluntarily surrender their rights due to just not being able to meet their children’s needs.
“We have about 180 right now currently in foster care. Throughout the course of the entire year, we’ve had about 275. ... I believe our oldest child that was adopted this year was a 15-year-old boy and then we have also finalized adoptions on children that are less than a year. Most of our adoptions are done by foster parents, families who have taken in children not knowing what the outcome might be, knowing that the children may go home. A lot of our foster parents work very closely with the birth families and that’s great for the kids to see the two families getting along. It also makes the transition a lot easier for the child. Then down the line if it turns out that the parent is not able to get the child back, then a lot of our foster parents already have that connection and want to adopt. However, we do have families that are only interested in adoption and in those cases you don’t place children with them before they are free for adoption.”
Those interested in DFCS’ three options — fostering, fostering to adopt and adoption — are encouraged to call 1-877-210-5497 or Kelly Waits at 770-387-3943. Following a monthly orientation meeting at the Bartow County DFCS office, 47 Brooks Drive in Cartersville, participants will complete 20 hours of training.
“I would definitely say that Bartow County has a great need for foster and adoptive parents,” Kittle said. “[We learned] that through the classes we’ve gone through and through our interactions with DFCS and other agencies. We see that need. I would definitely say that it is something you need to take seriously as a family and understand the decision that you’re making. It’s a huge decision that you’re going to change a child’s life but you’re also going to change your own.
“... And if you believe in prayer, [I would recommend] putting the prayer into it and just knowing that when you start down that road it is a journey. It’s not always an easy journey and there’s forks where you have to make hard decisions. [You need to] be prepared to make those hard decisions, but make sure that you’re ready to make them as a family. If anything, don’t fall apart but bind together through it. ... There’s times when you’re holding onto each other by a thread but know that in the end that it’s the most wonderful blessing that you could ever have and that it’s truly a God-given thing. And we are so proud that he chose us to take that journey.”