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New Horizons builds a family

By Staff | Nov 29, 2008

Spencer Thomas hugs his sister Alexis Ann. Both were adopted into a new family.

Children were a part of Tom and Nancy Jones’ dreams for the future when they were married in August 1999.

However, the couple discovered not all dreams necessarily become a reality. If the couple wanted children, adoption would be the route they would have to take.

Visiting with other people and checking adoption sites on the internet, the Albert Lea couple was drawn to New Horizons Adoption Agency.

“In January 2005, we attended an informational meeting New Horizons was conducting in Frost,” recalls Tom Jones.

“Nancy and I fell in love with New Horizons immediately,” says Jones. “We liked their ‘hominess’ and were immediately made to feel as if we were part of a family. We were not just a number like we probably would have been considered had we gone to a larger adoption agency,” states Jones.

New Horizons, located in Blue Earth, assists birth parents in providing three different types of adoptive placement: open adoption, semi-open adoption and closed adoption. Tom and Nancy Jones opted for the semi-open domestic adoption format.

Semi-open adoption refers to a relationship when photos, updates, videos and gifts may be exchanged between the birth parent and the adoptive family and child; but information is always passed through the agency. New Horizons also maintains copies of correspondence in the file if either party should loose their’s. Visits may also be granted, but are arranged through the agency and possibly with an agency representative present. The last names and addresses of the parties are not exchanged, maintaining some degree of privacy. The birth parent may select the adoptive family from profiles provided to her/them. A meeting is also arranged, but with only first names shared. A semi-open adoption may be referred to as an open adoption by some agencies.

Once Tom and Nancy Jones were committed to the idea of a domestic semi-open adoption, they began to compile the information and materials that are part of the prospective parent approval process.

Tom and Nancy acquired three letters of recommendation, underwent background checks, finger-printing, physicals and a financial review. They also had to submit a parenting philosophy, be interviewed and have a home study done, which even included where the adoptee would potentially sleep. Nancy and Tom also assembled six profile books or photo scrapbooks for prospective birth moms to view.

“Normally these steps take three months,” says Tom, “but it was discovered during my physical that I had Type 2 Diabetes, so it took an extra month until I got that under control,” recalls Jones.

The entire process lasted from March to July 2005, then the couple was faced with a two week waiting period after their paperwork was completed.

It wasn’t long before Tom and Nancy received a call from southwestern Minnesota saying a birth mom had selected them as prospective parents.

“I got to hold the baby girl shortly after her birth,” says a teary-eyed Tom, “but the mother decided to keep her.”

It is standard procedure for a birth mother to have 72 hours to decide if she actually wants to give her baby up for adoption or to keep the child.

“My tears had hardly dried,” says Jones, “when on October 14, 2005, we received a call from northwestern Iowa. A boy would be born within the next few hours and again the birth mother had selected us.”

But due to another unexpected twist of fate, Tom and Nancy were left with no child in their arms. A young man claimed the boy was his and refused the adoption.

“Since we had not officially gotten to adopt the boy, New Horizons asked us if we wanted to try a third time. We responded ‘absolutely’ and proceeded in hopes that another birth mom would select us,” says Jones.

Unknown to Tom and Nancy Jones, a drama was playing out in northwestern Iowa as DNA testing was being conducted on the man claiming fatherhood. In the meantime, the baby boy they had hoped to adopt had been placed in foster care with Lois and Chuck Strack of Blue Earth.

Five months passed before the hopeful adoptive parents received another call.

“A birth mom from northern Iowa called asking us what we would name a girl,” says Tom. “When we told her we would name her ‘Alexis Ann,’ she said she absolutely loved the name.”

On March 27, 2006 ‘Alexis Ann’ was born.

“We sat anxiously by the phone for the next 72 hours,” recalls Tom.

After a two week stint in foster care, Tom and Nancy were notified they could get their daughter on April 10.

“When you pick up your child, New Horizons provides a celebration complete with Bible verses. It is very touching,” says Jones.

In order to promote bonding, the adoptee parents are the only ones permitted to hold the child for the entire first week. By the second week, others may do so.

Video cameras were still whirring in the Jones’ household when they received another call from New Horizons.

“We were told that the boy we thought would be ours, could be, since DNA testing had proven that the protesting man was not the father. The birth mom still wanted us to adopt her son,” says Jones.

On May 12, 2006, Tom and Nancy Jones finally got to bring ‘Spencer Thomas’ home.

Tom and Nancy now needed two car seats, participated with New Horizons in another adoption ceremony and learned quickly the challenges faced by parents of two infants.

With a semi-open adoption, New Horizons requires Tom and Nancy Jones to allow two visits annually by the birth mom the first five years of a child’s life. These are supervised visits by a licensed social worker. On the adoptee’s birthday, they also are required to send a letter with at least 12 pictures to the birth mom.

As Tom and Nancy say, “the birth moms are part of our lives. We want them to know what is happening in the life of their child.”

“New Horizons has been very supportive to us,” say the Joneses. “They have been there around the clock for us and still are. They are a small, personable agency that provides almost a one on one relationship.”

Tom and Nancy now are panelists or spokes persons for New Horizons. They tell their story at informational meetings to prospective adoptive parents and sing the praises of Director Marlys Wubben and Social Worker Deanne Bauserman.

“At first we were concerned our ages would be a detrimental factor,” says Tom, “but in theory, we were picked three times in six months by different birth moms.”

Alexis Ann and Spencer Thomas have enhanced the lives of Nancy, who is a science teacher and girls track coach at Austin High School and Tom, in insurance sales and also a seventh grade girls basketball coach at Albert Lea.

Tom and Nancy Jones are models for childless couples to ‘keep the faith.’

Any child you take for your own becomes your own if you give of yourself to that child. I have born two children and had seven others by adoption, and they are all my children, equally beloved and precious.

– Dale Evans