Sal Thompson didn't want to be adopted by anyone until he met John and Debra Thompson. Sal, 14, of Warren, was taken from his biological parents in Louisiana after they tried to sell one of his brothers to buy a car part. He was placed in foster care when he was 6 1/2 years old.
He said the Thompsons seemed really nice when he first met them at the age of 10, and he now calls them Mom and Dad.
He also gained a sister when he was adopted, as the Thompsons also have a 19-year-old biological daughter.
Deborah Thompson, left, sits with her husband, John, right, and their adopted son, Sal, 14, all of Warren.
John and Debra Thompson have been fostering children for the last seven years, caring for children ranging in age from infant to 15 years.
"You have to have patience, understanding," said John Thompson, 56.
"Beyond patience," added Debra Thompson, 52.
November is National Adoption Month, and the Northeast Ohio Adoption Service is trying to educate people about adoption in order to dispel common misconceptions.
"The biggest (misconception) is it's expensive," said Cheryl Tarantino, NOAS director of marketing and recruitment. "There is no cost to adopt a school-age child from foster care."
Tarantino said money is often available to help cover expenses for the child's care, and there is no age limit to foster or adopt a child as long as you are at least 21 years old.
The Thompsons have fostered children through NOAS and said they would definitely recommend the agency for those seeking to foster or adopt.
"They've been almost like family to us," Debra Thompson said.
Jeffrey Hensley, 43, of Boardman, and his wife are going through NOAS for the adoption of two boys, ages 11 and 14. Hensley agreed that the agency has been a big help ever since they first decided to pursue adoption in 2007.
"It can take a little bit of time," especially considering the required 36 hours of training time and six-month home study, he said, but added that the extra time it takes to adopt a child can be beneficial.
"You want to make sure it's the right match," he said.
The Hensleys' adoption will be finalized in February, and most of the expenses incurred are minimal and will mostly be reimbursed upon finalization.
Although the Hensleys are licensed to provide foster care, they did not foster their sons prior to starting the adoption process.
The Thompsons, however, chose to adopt their son through a foster-adopt program, which they said was an easier process than a straight adoption.
"If you've already had a foster child in your home ... you don't have to go through that six-month waiting period," Debra Thompson said.
Although the Thompsons fostered many children prior to Sal, when they saw his picture, they knew they wanted to make him a permanent member of their family.
"He looked like John a little bit," Debra Thompson said. "Something just popped out."
David and Bernice Black of Warren had a much different experience with their adoption.
They knew they wanted to adopt an infant, and tried one agency without success before switching to the Holt Adoption Program in Boston.
Most of the children the Holt program placed were from Korea, but they did not have to travel there in order to adopt - which was good, since they were unable to travel that distance.
However, the first child they signed to adopt died in May 1972 before leaving the country.
Seven months later, they welcomed their daughter Stephanie into their family on Dec. 19, 1972.
"It's important for both parents to say, 'This is our child,'" said David Black. "As soon as we saw her picture, she was ours."
Stephanie was 9 1/2 months old and was born in South Korea. The Blacks know little about her parentage, only that she was abandoned and left with missionaries in a courtyard.
The Blacks welcomed their second daughter, Sara, several years after adopting Stephanie. Although only one of them is related biologically, the Blacks view them as equally theirs.
"They're very happy," David Black said.
Stephanie, now 40 years old, teaches at the Indiana Academy for Science and is working on her Ph.D.
The Blacks said they often recommend adoption to others, as long as couples are together on the decision.
"The world is filled with children who need parents," David Black said, but "you have to be positive that this is the right thing (for you)."
The Thompsons agree that although adoption can be very gratifying, it also is a great challenge.
"Love is not enough for these kids," Debra Thompson said. "These kids go through separation and loss issues. It's like a death. They move from foster home to foster home."
John Thompson said many of the children in foster care are going home-to-home with their only belongings carried in a trash bag. With everything already taken from them, they are harder to discipline than kids who haven't experienced the magnitude of loss they have, he said.
"They do off-the-wall things. You have to use love and logic," said Debra Thompson, adding that grounding a foster child will likely have little to no effect.
There are more than 3,000 foster children in Ohio, according to a 2010 study by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.
"There is a great need for foster parents," Tarantino said, adding the ultimate goal is to find a permanent family for every child.
Hensley, along with the Thompsons and the Blacks, recommends adoption for other families seeking to welcome children into their families, despite the challenges.
"We have the sins of their birth parents that we have to deal with," he said, but "we could tell there was something special about the boys."
The Thompsons and the Blacks said adoption can be successful as long as both parents are together in the decision and have no reservations.
"We thought we could make a difference, and hopefully we have," John Thompson said.
Others can make a difference, too, the Thompsons said.