This article was originally published in the Tribune-Review
by PATRICK VARINE | Thursday, May 27, 2021
Theresa Gutierrez has a lot of love to give.
After losing her husband nearly a decade ago, Gutierrez raised her eldest daughter, now in her mid-20s, and her son Brandon, who is now 16.
Just about a year ago, Theresa and Brandon welcomed 10-year-old Phillip into their home, and as of Feb. 25, he is officially a member of the family. Phillip was adopted through Wesley Family Services.
“My daughter was getting older and getting ready to leave the house,” Gutierrez said. “So two years ago, I went through training with Wesley.”
Phillip, now 11, is getting ready to finish fifth grade. He and older brother Brandon already have developed a typical sibling rivalry, ribbing each another and joking.
One-hundred-seventy years ago on May 24, 1851, the nation’s first codified adoptions laws went into effect in Massachusetts, and Annette Gross, director of placement services for Wesley Family Services, said she wished more people knew about the different types of adoption that are available.
Wesley, which has locations throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, focuses on adoptions of children from the welfare system.
“Pennsylvania has always been a big hub for adoptions,” Gross said. “But most of those have been international and domestic private adoptions. One of the trends we’ve seen is trying to focus attention and highlight adoptions from the public child welfare system.”
Gross said when a family adopts through Wesley, they have access to a wealth of information.
“A family gets to understand who they are, where they come from, their birth parents, some of those characteristics that children sometimes want to search for as they get older,” Gross said. “And you don’t always get that with international adoptions.”
Phillip was in the foster care system for four years before his adoption by Gutierrez.
“We’ve lost so much,” she said. “And I think that loss led us to be motivated to build another little family.”
Phillip’s older brother agreed.
“There was some sort of intangible thing that we both felt,” Brandon said.
The family is gearing up for a summer on the road, after being cooped up the past year during the pandemic.
“It feels good to do good for someone,” Gutierrez said. “And we’re going to California this summer, we’re going to Mexico. I can’t wait.
“The feeling of giving to a child is just phenomenal.”
Phillip said he loves his new family.
“I have a family, a roof over my head, they feed me and they love me,” he said.
Gross said she’s glad there are “wonderful families out there who open their homes to these kids.”
Gutierrez said she couldn’t be happier to have done so.
“Phillip has had some problems, but I really love him,” she said. “When he smiles at me, when he comes home from school and he’s had a good day, it’s the best.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the nation’s foster-care system served 673,000 children in 2019, the most recent year for statistics.
Of that number, only 66,000 had been adopted. An additional 122,200 were awaiting adoption.