Evelyn, Valerie, and other families and adopted children spoke during an event tied to November's National Adoption Awareness Month. The Franklin County Commissioners issued a proclamation for adoption awareness in November, and state Sen. Richard Alloway also lent his support.
Valerie Pritchett, an anchor with ABC 27 WHTM of Harrisburg, Pa., moderated the panel discussion Monday. She features children available for adoption twice weekly in a segment known as "Valerie's Kids."
"Love is the glue that holds every family together," she said.
Micah and Michelle Bumbaugh said people often remark they're not sure they can love a child who isn't biologically theirs. The Bumbaughs revealed Micah initially shared that concern, but he loved Christian, now 3, "in a very short time."
"The love just comes," Michelle Bumbaugh said. "It just happens."
Most of the featured panelists started as foster parents, then adopted one or more of their foster children. Parents Bob and Kim are in the process of adopting a fourth child in addition to the four biological ones they have.
"It's made me a better father and a better husband," Bob said.
The panelists agreed the process to adopt a foster child can be lengthy and daunting, but ultimately rewarding.
"It's an emotional roller coaster," Kim said.
Kristen Hamilton, of Greencastle, turned her adoption experience into a career and a passion. She serves as a legal advocate for children in the foster care system.
Born in New Jersey to an unwed teenage girl, Kristen, then known as Denise, was placed in home care and later with a family. Now she and her husband are considering adoption.
Pritchett asked Hamilton what she considers to be the best thing her family did.
"Besides bringing me home?" Hamilton asked, then said she appreciates that her parents scraped together the money to bring her into their lives. She doesn't refer to them as her "adoptive family," but rather her family, since they gave her a bicycle and cleaned up the scrapes on her knee when she fell off.
Hamilton realized at age 9 what being adopted meant and said she felt special.
"You're there because you're wanted," she said.
According to literature distributed at the event, 20,000 children in Pennsylvania are awaiting adoption.
More information can be found at www.adoptpakids.org.