They call it “Becoming a Cline Day.”
Obviously, both of Jacqueline and Jake Cline’s two children have birthdays that fall throughout the year. The Greenwood couple makes sure those are big deals for their kids.
But Hudson, 8, and Renesmee, 10, get an extra day as well. The family makes a special occasion on the day each child was officially adopted — April 26 for Renesmee, Nov. 10 for Hudson. They let each child choose how they celebrate.
“They get to pick a meal or a dessert. We want them to be comfortable with what we’re celebrating. It’s not like a birthday party, something that everyone has,” Jacqueline Cline said. “We’ve realized we have to go with how they’re feeling.”
The Cline family has been transformed by adoption, with two different children finding the forever homes they had been searching for. They’ve gone through two entirely different processes in making Hudson and Renesmee theirs, providing them with unique perspective on the complexities of adoption.
“It’s been a really eye-opening experience to a world out there that not a lot of people know about,” Jake Cline said. “Experiencing the hardships they’ve had, and the love we’ve been able to give that they didn’t experience before, has been eye-opening.”
With November being National Adoption Month, stories such as the Clines reveal how great an impact adoptive families can have on a child’s life.
“It’s bringing awareness to adoption, celebrating permanency for a family. And that permanency looks different for each child, for each family, for each adoption,” said Traci Eggleston, Department of Child Services regional manager for Region 14, which includes Johnson County.
National Adoption Month is an opportunity to honor the children who have been adopted each year, as well as thank parents for their commitment to growing their families by choice. At the same time, the month is a time to raise awareness of the ongoing need for forever families for children in foster care.
In Indiana, 6,119 children have been adopted since 2020, according to the Department of Child Services. More than 1,500 children and teens are still waiting to be adopted.
“There is a significant need, especially for our older youth,” Eggleston said. “Sometimes, some of the children with more complex trauma are our older youth, and they need a family that is willing to understand that complex trauma and help the children work through that.”
Adoption had always been on the mind of Jacqueline Cline. Her mother had been adopted, and so had one of her cousins.
After she and her husband had difficulty conceiving, it was an easy decision to explore adoption.
“Adoption was never our Plan B. It was something we always talked about,” she said. “When we couldn’t conceive, it was just like, OK, we’re doing to adopt.”
The Clines looked a variety of different options — international, private, independent and public adoptions. They decided on private adoption, in which adoption was directed and supervised by a privately funded, licensed adoption agency.
The process cost nearly $40,000, and they were told the average wait time to adopt was six months. Still, the Clines had to be prepared, as at any time they could be contacted with a match.
Only three months after starting the process, they received the call they were hoping for. A baby boy had been born the night before, and the birth mother was considering the Clines as adoptive parents.
Though excited, the couple did not feel confident that they’d go home with a son. In private adoptions, the decision is not final until the biological parents willingly sign their parental rights to the adoptive family.
Often, the birth parents change their mind.
“It went back and forth for a day or two. She wasn’t 100% sure, and then it happened,” Jacqueline Cline said.
Despite the trepidations and the wavering of the birth mother, they approved. Weeks later, the adoption was approved. Jacqueline and Jake Cline brought home their son, Hudson, in November 2014.
The experience of raising Hudson was a joy, filled with the ups and downs that all new parents go through as a child grows from infant to toddler to independent little boy.
By the time Hudson was 4 years old, in 2019, the Clines were ready to add to their family.
“We wanted to foster to adopt,” Jacqueline Cline said.
This time, they wanted to approach the process in a different way. They had learned how great the need was for foster and adoptive parents for older children, particularly those who were older than 8.
The couple decided to become licensed foster parents, with the goal of adopting an older child. They had three different placements, and though the experience was a positive one, the Clines wondered if they should follow a different path.
“I didn’t know what to do. It’s not that I didn’t want to support reunification, or a kid going home, but there are so many kids out there who are needing homes. Those are the kids I want to love; that’s what we’re looking for,” Jacqueline Cline said.
The family joined Indiana Adoption Program, a statewide initiative to find loving, committed, safe, permanent families for children in foster care.
Through the program, adoptive parents can connect to resources about the adoption process, request additional information and find local adoption contacts.
Most importantly, they can access a secure portal that allows them to learn about children available for adoption.
“It helps children who do not already have a pre-identified adopted family find permanency,” Eggleston said. “It gives an opportunity for a child to be shared, not only in their community but statewide. They have more accessibility to forever families.”
Meeting with an adoption consultant, the Clines discussed possible adoption options. They learned about the children in the program; one with a radiant smile caught their eyes — Renesmee, who also goes by the nickname Nezzy.
“I looked at it and chose Nezzy, then my husband looked at it and chose Nezzy. We both were drawn to her,” Jacqueline Cline said.
The Clines submitted an adoption inquiry, and about a week later, the family was offered an interview. Both sides felt that Renesmee would be a great fit for them, and they started the slow transition process. Nezzy met the Clines multiple times, getting to know them while they learned more about her. Eventually, they would have moved to overnight visits.
But the pandemic lockdown complicated the plans. Many places they would have tried to meet at to spend some time together were closed.
Eventually, the Clines and Nezzy were able to have a handful of meetings before starting overnight visits. The adoption was finalized in April 2021.
“Those first few months, everyone is on a natural high, it’s so exciting, especially for a child who has been in foster care as long as Nezzy was,” Jacqueline Cline said.
Like in any other family, there are complexities to go with the positive moments. Nezzy had been in foster care for 2,412 days, and she has a lot of different needs and unknowns, Jacqueline Cline said. They are working through the trauma she experienced together.
“This is when feeling starts, this is when bonding starts. I think people assume that, oh, she’s been adopted, the story is over. But there’s a new part of their life that they have to adjust to,” she said. “What does that look like? It’s different day to day.”
Adoption in Indiana
Types of adoption
There are four basic types of adoption: public agency adoption, domestic private agency adoption, international adoption, and independent adoption. Requirements, costs, and timing vary between and within the different types of adoption.
How much does it cost to adopt?
There are many factors that impact the cost of adopting in Indiana, but in some cases, it can be very affordable. Estimates include $1,500 for public agency, $25,000 on private agency, $30,000 for international adoption and $40,000 for independent adoption.
How long does the adoption process take?
Adoption is a process, and it can take time. Most adoptive parents can meet all state requirements in 6 to 12 months. Families are selected for consideration based on characteristics that indicate they may be a good match for the waiting child and able to best meet that child’s individual needs. Once a family and a child are matched, the child’s move to an adoptive family’s home is based on the child’s need to make a stable and lasting transition. The final decision to place a child in an adoptive home always rests with the court.