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Hall faces adoption gap: More kids than parents available
15 children in county need permanent homes
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Requirements for adopting

• Must be 25 years old if single

• Must be 10 years older than child being placed

• Resident for six months prior to filing

Other requirements

• Complete physical exam with doctor

• Submit to drug screening

• Submit to state and federal background check

• Have home inspected for safety

• Take classes on fostering

For more information: Call 1-877-210-KIDS or visit itsmyturnnow.dhs.ga.gov

In Hall County, 15 of 63 children free for adoption need a permanent family, a problem the Division of Family and Children Services hopes to solve through a summer marketing campaign.

There are three families in Hall County currently approved to adopt children from the Division of Family and Children Services in private agencies.

DFCS has no straight-to-adoption families through its own recruitment; the 48 with adoptive resources often are being served by families with the intention to foster until adoption is possible.

Statewide, 200 to 300 children in DFCS supervision at any given time need a permanent home, so the agency kick-started a marketing campaign this month to put a face to the children in need.

Of particular concern are older children and sibling groups, demographic groups often skipped over by adopting families.

“Separating siblings is an emotional burden for children, because you’ve just lost what you know in your home and you’ve been separated from the only other thing that you know you can rely on,” said Ashley Fielding, director of the Office of Legislative Affairs and Communications for the Department of Human Services.

Children in the foster care system enter adoptive status only after the biological parents’ rights to the kids are terminated. Foster parents working with DFCS can provide emergency care and housing, caring for children until they can return to their birth parents, or until those parents’ rights are terminated and the children can be adopted.

“Some people want a little baby. Some people want to adopt a teenager. A lot of that depends on the person’s capacity and their desire to bring someone in,” Fielding said.

Rebecca Davidson, DFCS Region 2 resource development supervisor, said she is even seeing a greater interest in short-term emergency fostering — parents willing to take a call at 3 a.m., if necessary, when a child is removed from a home.

“They talk about doing that in their beginning period of their partnership with DFCS to kind of get their toes wet,” Davidson said.

As a seasoned adoption attorney, Judy Sartain said she tries to get her clients to keep an open mind when taking steps to adopt.

“I ask people to not limit themselves to that fairy tale of the fresh, brand-new, little baby from the hospital — that they remember that every child deserves a loving and stable home,” she said.

Parents whose rights have been terminated have 30 days to appeal, Sartain said, and adoptive parents must go through home safety inspections and other testing before all the paperwork is signed.

With a shortage of foster parents in Hall County, Sartain said she encourages people to foster even if they cannot keep the child forever.

“I often have people tell me, ‘Well, I just couldn’t do that. I’d get too attached to the child,’” Sartain said. “I’m like, ‘You’re the grown-up. You’re the adult. Even if this child is only with you two weeks, that might be the only two weeks in that child’s life that it understands that you sit down at the table and have a meal with the family.’”

Sartain said the hurt felt by parents who go through the system and leave empty-handed can make it difficult to retain foster parents.

“Then the state and the county have invested all this time in training these folks, and they foster one child,” she said.

Davidson said that in a perfect world, and with adequate staffing, the time between the termination of parental rights to the finalization of adoption can be six to eight months.

Though DFCS has already sought to create a public profile of foster kids through the “Wednesday’s Child” program, Fielding said the initiative is a concerted effort for greater outreach for parents.

The next six weeks will have a weekly profile of children needing adoption, some with a focus on teenagers and sibling groups.

“Teens need the same love, parenting, guidance, protection that younger children have,” Fielding said.

A foster child ages out at 18 and can enter a world without a person to guide them, Sartain said.

“I’ve been doing this long enough that I see children of children that went through the system, and that’s the truly sad part,” she said.

For more information on foster care, adoption and the kids needing a home, visit itsmyturnnow.dhs.ga.gov or call 1-877-210-KIDS.

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