When we think of first steps, we think of children.
But it was parent-hopefuls, like Curtis and Allison Bailey, who took their first steps toward adopting a child at the Families Forever adoption fair Saturday in North Charleston.
When the Baileys, who are from Walterboro, got married in September, Allison already had three teen-aged children. She isn't able to have any more biologically, but the entire family wanted to bring another child into the mix.
The couple decided they would look into foster care and adoption.
Curtis said the family would prefer to adopt a younger child, an infant or perhaps a child in early elementary school.
"I've been blessed with mine," Allison said, "and there are so many others out there."
The Baileys, like many other people hoping to become parents, came to the event to learn about the dizzying array of adoption and foster care options, requirements and legal issues.
The free event, which was held at the Felix C. Davis Community Center, was sponsored by the South Carolina Bar Young Lawyers Division.
Professionals from every level of the adoption process staffed booths, handed out information and answered questions.
Tiffany Spann-Wilder, 34, a local attorney, president of the Young Lawyers Division and an adoptive parent, said there are basically three types of adoption: domestic, where parents are mostly looking to adopt infants; international, where most children are toddlers; or placements through departments of social services, where children are mostly older and may have some special needs.
Adoption is complicated, Spann-Wilder said. It hasn't become any easier in recent years, she said, but there are more services available to help parents move through the process.
Denice Fisher, director of the A Chosen Child Adoption Service, said it usually takes from 1 to 3 years to complete an adoption. Her service works with people interested in international adoptions and makes domestic adoption arrangements between birth mothers and people trying to adopt a child.
Glenn Lister, a Mount Pleasant attorney who has specialized in adoption for the past 25 years, said, "It's a detailed process and you have to make sure you do it properly and thoroughly." If mistakes are made, he said, families have to go back and fix what they did wrong, which can be time-consuming and heartbreaking.
At the fair, booths where people could get legal advice were among the most popular.
Spann-Wilder said the adoption process can be arduous. When she was adopting, people thought because she was a lawyer, she could easily navigate the process. "But I had to do my homework," she said.
Spann-Wilder decided to use the knowledge she gained from her personal adoption experience, which she admits is limited, to spearhead adoption public service activities as her service to the Bar's Young Lawyers Division.
So far, members of the group have held one other adoption fair in Columbia and conducted training for lawyers interested in doing adoption work.
But people like the Baileys were simply taking in all the fair had to offer and feeling excited about the child who might soon enter their lives.
"We have so much to offer," Curtis Bailey said. "This would be a win-win situation."