Agencies seek more parents for adoptions
By ALYSSA HARVEY
While adoptions are on the rise in southcentral Kentucky, there is still a need for more parents to adopt more kids.
“We’re doing pretty well,” said Michelle Jones, family services office supervisor for the state Department for Community-Based Services. “The more adoptions we have, the more parents we need to take care of kids.”
Sheryl Findley, adoption coordinator for Bethany Christian Services Adoption and Orphan Care Agency, said the nonprofit organization has had one placement since the group’s license to do adoptions in Kentucky took effect in April, and there are several families - mostly in Bowling Green and Louisville - who are being assessed for stable finances, marriage if it is applicable and home environment.
“We want to be sure their family is suitable for placement for the child. Our focus is really finding stable homes for kids who need them,” she said. “We provide lots of education and raise awareness about adoption. We speak in churches and Sunday school classes. We provide training in hospitals.”
Still, more families are needed for domestic and international adoptions - less for domestic because birth mothers often choose families to adopt their infants.
“Our greatest need domestically are adoptive families for African-American infants,” she said. “In international adoptions there’s a tremendous need. We have over 300 children needing families.”
Currently 555 children are in foster care in DCBS’ 10 southcentral Kentucky counties, with 172 having a goal of adoption with DCBS, Jones said. Between Oct. 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2009, 44 children were adopted in the 10-county service area - Allen, Butler, Barren, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, Simpson and Warren. About 96 percent of DCBS adoptions have been by foster parents. Since Oct. 1, 2009, 26 have been adopted.
“It’s fantastic for our kids, but recruitment is still important for us. It’s ongoing,” she said. “We’re running out of families. There’s always going to be a need.”
To adopt a child through DCBS, perspective families must attend an 11-week training program, do criminal background checks and have an exam to determine that they are in good physical and mental health. They must be at least 21 years old with a stable lifestyle. The agency also will adopt to singles. Although there’s no limit to adoption, DCBS does assess how many children a family should take, Jones said.
“We assess parents during the training process and the home study process,” she said.
In home study, the family does paperwork. The length of time for the adoption to take place varies, Jones said.
“It depends on the situation of the family, but it usually takes a few months after the classes,” she said.
There is no cost to be approved to adopt through DCBS, Jones said.
“When children are adopted, most will qualify for an adoption subsidy,” she said. “They automatically get a medical card once they’re adopted and receive fully paid tuition to an in-state university.”
The process to become a foster parent is similar, Jones said. The limit of children in a foster family is five, including birth children.
“First, we try to get the children to relatives or back to their birth families. A lot of people end up doing both, or they want to foster in hopes of adopting,” she said. “We need foster parents of all ages, especially teenagers and sibling groups. Nobody wants to be separated from siblings.”
No infants are available for adoption, Jones said.
“Infants must go to foster care first,” she said. “Foster families sometimes adopt them.”
Bethany Christian Services Adoption and Orphan Care Agency places many infants in its domestic adoptions. The organization has 80 offices across the country. The Bowling Green office is a satellite of the office in Nashville.
“One of our key ministries is to provide care and counseling for women in crisis pregnancies and their families. We walk through their options and provide counseling with no expense to them,” Findley said. “We give her time and space to think through her options and think of what’s best for her. We encourage the birth father to be involved.”
One in four birth mothers makes an adoption plan and implements it, Findley said. The agency continues to help them even years after their babies are born and the adoption has happened when a particular milestone may trigger emotions.
“They can be affected at any time, like when their child turns 5 and starts kindergarten or at 18 there’s graduation,” she said. “We provide counseling indefinitely. They can walk into any Bethany office and receive counseling.”
In international adoptions, there is a need for adoption of children with special needs, those who might be perfectly healthy but over age 4, children who are part of a sibling group and kids with physical or developmental needs, Findley said.
“Most people are looking for a child who is 18 months old or younger,” she said. “We want to find homes for those children who are considered hard to place.”
Bethany began offering embryo adoption about four years ago, Findley said.
“There are many couples who have gone through in vitro fertilization and have completed their families who are not comfortable having embryos destroyed,” she said. “They can donate them to an infertile couple. If the transfer works, the adoptive mother would be giving birth to her adoptive child. It creates a very special connection for the couples, even if they never meet.”
Parents who want to adopt through Bethany go through a home study.
“It’s a wonderful time for the family to receive education and preparation so they can learn about adoption and prepare for parenting,” Findley said. “They’re preparing for the journey ahead.”
According to the Bethany’s Web site, www.bethany.org, fees vary from office to office because of adoption requirements and operating requirements vary by location.
— For more information, call the Department for Community-Based Services at 746-7447 or visit Bethany Christian Services Adoption and Orphan Care Agency’s Web site at www.bethany.org.