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Governor chokes up with emotion, urges Nebraskans to adopt children or become foster parents

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Governor chokes up with emotion, urges Nebraskans to adopt children or become foster parents

Nov 27, 2023 | 6:36 pm ET
By Paul Hammel
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Governor chokes up with emotion, urges Nebraskans to adopt children or become foster parents
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Gov. Jim Pillen, surrounded by advocates for child adoption and foster care, related his family's personal experience with adoption on Monday. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — Gov. Jim Pillen choked up with emotion momentarily Monday as he related his own family’s experience with adopting a child.

Pillen called the adoption of his now 19-year-old son, Izic, “the greatest gift of grace that Suzanne and I and our family could ever” experience.

“I probably did not fully grasp and would sometimes say, ‘How can an adoptive parent love a child like their own?’ ” the governor said.

“Guess what — that was really, really shallow,” Pillen added.

‘Adoption month’

During a press conference Monday to designate November as “Adoption Month” in the state, the governor urged other Nebraskans to “answer the calling” to adopt children or become foster parents.

“Every child, no matter their circumstance, deserves a loving, safe and caring home,” he said.

Izic, whom the Pillens took into their home at 4 months, was one of 331 children adopted in Nebraska so far this year.

But 200 other children are still waiting to be adopted, the governor said, including 27 under age 4.

“You will really, really understand that love conquers all,” he said.

Governor chokes up with emotion, urges Nebraskans to adopt children or become foster parents
State Sen. Wendy DeBoer of Omaha. (Craig Chandler/University Communication)

State Sen. Wendy DeBoer of Omaha revealed at the event that she has applied to become a foster parent.

She noted that the Legislature had updated state laws in recent years to make it easier for families to adopt.

“People in Nebraska care about adoption, and I think that’s wonderful,” DeBoer said.

Also joining the governor at the press conference was Laura Opfer, the deputy director of the Children and Family Services Division of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Opfer, the adoptive parent to three daughters, said there is also a need for relatives and foster parents to take in children.

There are 2,321 foster families in the state, she said.

The state’s top goal, Opfer said, is to reunify children with their parents after temporary placement with other family members. So far this year, 855 children have been reunified with their parents, she said.

‘Saved’ my life

Among others speaking at Monday’s press conference were Craig and Miranda Coleman, the adoptive parents of Malachi Coleman, a Nebraska football player who has established a foundation, “Fly Like Chi,” which encourages helping children in the foster care system.

The Colemans adopted Malachi and his sister, Nevaeh, at the ages of 10 and 7, respectively.

“The foster care system not only changed my life — it saved it. It gave me the beautiful family I have today and has given me a second chance at life,” Malachi said in a statement read by his mother.

She said that the children “have made us better humans, more compassionate neighbors, more confident advocates, and taught us how to live looking forward.”

Those speaking Monday emphasized that the state, through a contract with the Nebraska Children and Home Society, provides training and support for adoptive families and foster caregivers.

Persons interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents can call 1-800-772-7368 or access the DHHS adoption page. The Nebraska Children’s Home Society also has information at www.nchs.org.