Farmington family adopts son before Thanksgiving
FARMINGTON — This Thanksgiving will be particularly joyful for one Farmington couple who recently expanded their family.
Last week, Randall and Rolanda Jeffrey officially adopted 2-year-old Teddy at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Farmington. Relatives, friends and others involved in the case gathered to witness the proceeding, including some who watched via Skype.
"This is one of the highlights of my job," said Judge Sandra Price before swearing in the couple as Teddy's new parents.
Price said she waived the 120-day waiting period often required after a family decides to adopt, saying the bond was obvious between the couple and Teddy.
"I’ve watched and seen the interaction, love and attention he’s getting," the judge said.
Both parents wiped away tears during the proceeding as they answered a series of questions about their commitment to making the adoption permanent.
The Jeffreys have been caring for Teddy since February, when he and his siblings were removed from their home by New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department officials.
The couple, who have two biological children, ages 12 and 22, said they knew early on that Teddy was meant to be a part of their family.
"Somewhere along the line, it all just clicked, and we fell in love with him," said Randall Jeffrey after the proceedings. "He’s just a cutie pie, and when we found out he was going to be up for adoption, we knew we had to make it happen."
The couple live and work at Navajo Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit in Farmington that provides housing and education for children. Randall Jeffrey is the campus manager, and his wife is the cook.
Rolanda Jeffrey said she became emotional the moment the adoption became official because it finally sunk in that Teddy would be her son.
"It just finally hit, 'Wow, he’s mine, we get to take him home, and there’s no more paperwork,'" she said.
Her mother, Nelene Kellogg, also expressed joy at having a new grandson.
"It’s awesome, I love it!" she said, as she cuddled the laughing, squirming boy after the proceeding. "The first time I saw him he was really sick. I just fell in love with him."
Kellogg also lives Navajo Ministries and works there as a house parent, so Teddy will be constantly surrounded by family, she said.
One of Teddy’s new older brothers, 12-year-old Enoch, was also happy to have another sibling.
"It’s always been my dream to have a little brother," he said.
The Jeffreys said they plan to keep Teddy in touch with his biological brother and sister, who have been placed in a separate home.
After the court proceeding, Monica Grossheim and Ann Evans, quilters from Bethany Christian Church, presented the newest member of the Jeffrey family with a hand-made quilt, which Teddy grasped tightly.
The couple's adoption date was just before National Adoption Day, which took place on Saturday. The day raises awareness of the need for foster and adoptive caregivers.
The state Children, Youth and Families Department has 134 children available for fostering, but only 40 foster families, according to Patricia Hale, the department's foster and adoptive parent recruitment specialist.
Hale said the agency especially needs Native American adoptive families because the Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that officials make every effort to place native children first with their relatives and, barring that possibility, with a family that has at least one native parent.
In the Jeffreys' case, Teddy is Navajo, and so is Rolanda Jeffrey, which made the adoption easier.
"We want to keep that cultural connection," Hale said. "We encourage open adoption so the child can connect with other siblings and family and want it to be a family affair. I hope people will think about adopting.”
Before leaving the courthouse last week, the Jeffreys explained Teddy had another name before being removed from his family.
Randall Jeffrey researched the advantages of changing a young child’s name upon adoption and the couple settled on Theodore for their new son. The toddler's father explained the name means "gift of God."
"So that’s perfect, right?" Rolanda Jeffrey said.
Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.
For information about fostering or adopting a child, call Patricia Hale with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department at 505-419-9888 or visit cyfd.org.