National Adoption Month: Connecting kids with families

FLORENCE, Elisia Manuel doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges of adoption and parenthood. But those things have also filled her heart and given her a purpose in life.

Manuel, a 33-year-old mother who lives in Casa Grande, and her husband, Tecumseh, adopted their third child on Saturday at the Pinal County Courthouse in Florence.

The Saturday event in Florence was one of many that took place across the country to celebrate National Adoption Month.

A couple of days before the adoption, Manuel talked about her prior experiences and how she was looking forward to officially adopting her third child. Adoption provided her and Tecumseh, who have been together 11 years, the opportunity to be parents.

“We always wanted children; I found I wasn’t able to have children (myself),” she said.

Last year, Manuel adopted two children, a boy and a girl — both are just a few months shy of their third birthday.

But the children have been in Manuel’s custody almost since birth. She said the adoption process can take a year or longer. It took 14 months for the adoption to be “fully finalized” with those children from last year’s adoption, Telisia and Tecumseh Jr.

All three children the Manuels have taken in are from the Gila River Indian Community; Tecumseh, 34, is a Gila River Indian Community member.

Adoption attorney Tamera Shanker said Arizona has more than 18,000 foster children, and approximately 2,400 of those are “legally free” to be adopted.

If a child is “legally free” to be adopted, a couple can adopt immediately, without the long wait that accompanies adopting other children whose biological parents are still finalizing paperwork through the court system to release their child.

Manuel is promoting adoption to the masses because she said there aren’t enough foster families participating.

“I encourage everyone to get involved and think about foster care and adoption,” she said. “A lot of kids end up in group homes.”

The child Manuel adopted Saturday, a son named Micah, has been in her custody for a year-and-a-half, since he was two days old. But Manuel said it’s a different feeling when things become official and finalized for adoption.

“I’ve been counting the days down for a month … I’m so excited,” she said. “My heart skips beats and my stomach is in knots because I know he’ll be mine forever.”

Manuel’s passion for adoption led her to create a nonprofit organization called Three Precious Miracles — more information can be found at

The nonprofit, which Manuel said is in its infant stages and run out of her garage, provides care packages for foster families who want to adopt Native American children. She said many families have trouble providing basic necessities like shoes and clothes to the foster children.

Three Precious Miracles has sent care packages for about 100 foster kids so far, Manuel said.

When asked what the foster parent experience has been like, Manuel acknowledged it isn’t always easy.

“It has its ups and downs; there’s a lack of resources in Native (American areas),” she said. “We appreciate the fact that we’ve been given the opportunity. It’s been such a blessing for us.”

Donna McBride, a Court Appointed Special Advocate supervisor and co-chair of the Pinal County Adoption Day event, said the county is proud to be involved with the effort.

“By giving these children stable, loving environments, you can make a powerful difference in their lives,” she said. “And our communities, in return, will experience incredible joys and rewards.”

According to a Pinal County news release, more than 100,000 children are in the United States foster care system. Every year, more than 4,000 adoptions are finalized across the country on special adoption days.

More than 22,000 children turn 18 annually without having a foster family.

Shanker, the adoption attorney, said potential foster families don’t need to look outside Arizona to find a foster child.

“We need not go beyond the borders of our state to create a family through adoption, as we have thousands of our state’s children that are looking for a forever home,” she said.

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