Tags: In This Issue, Kids, Parenting
The Adoption Option
Exploring the process
November 01, 2011Every child has the right to a loving, secure, permanent home. However, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are an estimated 423,773 children in foster care in the United States, and 114,556 of these children are legally and permanently separated from their birth family and waiting to be adopted.
Becoming an adoptive or foster parent is a huge decision. Although bringing a needy child into your home can be rewarding for the parents, the most important issue is what is right for the child. Fortunately, there are many places locally and on the national level to provide prospective parents with the information, knowledge, tools, and education they need to build a happy family.
For many, becoming a foster parent is the first step in adoption. In Indiana in 2008 there were 13,400 children in need of foster care. Of that, 2,750 were in Marion County. The goal of foster care is to provide a safe, protective and therapeutic atmosphere for children who have been traumatized in some way until which time they can either be reunited with their family or become ready to find a new permanent home.
Foster families must go through extensive training, education and background checks. According to state guidelines, potential foster parents must complete 20 hours of core training and 10 additional hours for special needs children, such as children with medical or behavioral problems. They must be at least 21 years of age and pass a criminal history and background check. They must demonstrate financial stability and rent or own a home that meets physical safety standards. All family members must be in good medical condition and must provide statements from a physician. They must also successfully complete First Aid, CPR, and Universal Precautions training.
Lastly, a licensed social worker will conduct a Home Study with the family. This consists of a personal assessment of each member of the family to determine the sturdiness of relationships, upbringing and philosophies. The Home Study is updated each year the family stays in the fostering program.
Ongoing educational programs and training for both children and parents are also expected for foster families and the license must be renewed every four years. Weekly or bi-weekly social worker visits and 24 hour support services are offered by most agencies.
Damar Foster Care Services is a new division of Damar Services, Inc., which has been serving children with special needs for many years. Damar is licensed through the Department of Child Services as a child placement agency for both temporary and pre-adoptive foster care.
Guenevere Kalal is the director of Damar Foster Care which is dedicated to finding safe, permanent homes for children with mild to severe therapeutic needs; children who often have the most trouble finding a family willing to give them the home they need. "Our specialty is working as a therapeutic agency," she said. "We specialize in working with children who are deemed to have special medical, emotional, social, behavioral, or educational needs."
When potential families of special needs children go through their training, they often must learn additional Parenting skills. "They learn about different diagnosis and how to handle different situations," said Kalal. "Every family has different strengths and weaknesses and bring different things to the table. The most important things [an adoptive parent] should have is patience and the willingness to learn and grow. Even if they have been a parent before, they need to be willing to adapt and learn new and innovative ways of parenting in order to give these children what they need." Visit www.damar.org or call Guenevere Kalal at 317-856-5201 to learn more about Damar Foster Care.
The adoption process includes selecting an adoption agency, searching for a child, filing a petition to adopt and finalizing the adoption. Most agencies require the adoptive parents to attend training. This training helps the potential parents learn about issues that arise during and after adoption. Parents learn about any disabilities or cultural differences their child may have.
Much like the foster system, the state of Indiana also requires a Family Preparation Assessment, also called a Home Study. A social worker will meet with the adoptive family to learn more about them and their home. They will write a home study report based on their meeting with the adoptive family and various required documents such as birth certificates, divorce decrees, finalization of previous adoption decrees, and child abuse and criminal record clearances. Adoptive families also will need to verify their income, get a statement of health from their doctor, get fingerprinted and provide references.
In an international adoption, the new parents adopt a child who is a citizen of a foreign country. In addition to satisfying the adoption requirements of both the foreign country and the parents' home state in the U.S., the parents must obtain an immigrant visa for the child through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The child will be granted U.S. citizenship upon entering the United States; however the foreign adoption must be domesticated and approved.
Attorney Michelle Jackson works with both domestic and international adoptions. She is an advocate for international adoption and has adopted two sons from the Congo. "You often hear people ask, 'Why would anyone adopt internationally when there are so many needy Kids here?'" she said. "I think the question is just what is best for your family. The numbers for children domestically are significantly lower when you look at the whole world crisis. There are over a hundred million orphans in our world and in the United States we have less than 1 percent of those, so we see that there is a huge need outside of the United States as well."
In 1990, owner of the Wendy's restaurant chain Dave Thomas was asked by President George H. W. Bush to be the spokesperson for a campaign for national adoption awareness. Today, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption spearheads National Adoption Day an annual event when judges across the country make it a priority to finalize pending foster care adoptions. In 2010, 4,500 children were adopted and supporters hosted over 350 events to celebrate the spirit of the day. National Adoption Day is held each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and this year falls on November 19. Visit www.nationaladoptionday.org to learn more and find events being held in your area.
Regardless of whether you are considering adoption or fostering, it's an extraordinary way to build a family that requires patience, perseverance and dedication. Most importantly, you can make the difference in the life of a child in need. And that's what matters most.
Rebecca Todd is a freelance writer and the author of the book "What's the Point?" Visit her at rebeccatodd.wordpress.com.