Wanted: Parents to foster or adopt
MORGAN CITY, La. -- There are hundreds of children statewide needing a family and are available for adoption.
There are no adoption fees and legal expenses of the adoption are covered. But more importantly, these children need a place to call home; to be loved and nurtured in a family.
These are children in state care and custody without an identified family for adoption.
Of the 646 children available for adoption in the Louisiana foster care system, 269 who do not have an identified placement, according to Lindsey deBlieux of Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.
Kaaren Hebert, a department policy advisor, said that there is a need for “foster parents that can take older children or that can take siblings, sometimes three, four or five at a time.”
The state tries to place children in foster homes close to their families of origin.
It’s important that we have foster families in all parts of the state, so children… experience minimal movements,” Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Suzy Sonnier said.
Two local families who adopted five children from the Louisiana foster care system shared their experience and rewards.
Chantel Brunet and her husband, Joshua, of Patterson, is an example of a family happy it stepped up to provide a home and family to children who have been removed from their biological parents.
Brunet said she and her husband had been trying unsuccessfully to have children when they decided to adopt through the Department of Children and Family Services.
“We had looked at private adoption agencies but the cost was too much,” said Brunet, who was reluctant at first to adopt a child through the foster program.
Two brothers from the Lafayette region were placed in the Brunet home in March 2011; their sister joined them months later. The three sibling’s adoptions were formalized at the end of February, this year.
“I have no regrets whatsoever,” said Brunet. “The kids fit perfectly in our family.”
Joshua, 11, Brandon, 9 and their sister, Kayla, 7, may see another addition to the family. Brunet said she and her husband are discussing buying a larger house in order to expand the family.
“I would do it again but I am not sure how soon,” Brunet said. “It is a blessing.”
Children are removed from families primarily because of neglect; less than 10 percent are placed in foster care because of physical or sexual abuse.
When efforts to correct the circumstances in the family of origin fails, parental rights are terminated and the children become available for adoption. Profiles of foster children eligible for adoption can be viewed at www.dcfs.louisiana.gov.
There are 89 children available for adoption in the Lafayette region; 26 are without identified adoptive placements.
“Every child deserves a home. Every child deserves a family,” said Hebert.
While fostering a little boy who was eventually returned to his relatives, Brooke Blanco was matched with her first adoptive daughter from Child and Family Services, whom she has named Jewel.
Blanco and her partner Stephanie Fremin took the then 21-month-old girl into their homes in March 2010. Four months later the couple was placed with the infant sister whom they have named Liyah.
“I have always wanted to have children through adoption,” Blanco, who lives in Morgan City, said.
Fremin said they saw a roadside sign about adopting foster children which put them on the road to locating their daughters. She said they began going to the Child and Family Services web site every day looking for a child to adopt.
“The girls complete my life,” said Fremin.
Blanco and Fremin have since separated but they agreed that they will both remain in the girls’ lives.
Blanco, Fremin and the Brunet family and others have given children love and a secure place to call home. But the sad fact remains that this is not the case for many Louisiana children.
In March, Child and Family Services launched the “Faith in Families” initiative which seeks to safely reduce the number of children entering foster care and decrease the amount of time children spend in the system. It also tries to ensure each child has a permanent connection when they leave foster care with adoption placements.
“Children deserve strong and loving families,” said Sonnier. “This initiative will bring positive and life-changing impacts to children in our foster care system.”
While some foster children become available for adoption, the majority are placed in foster homes until their family of origin can provide a safe environment to which they can return; this can be for a few days, weeks, months and sometimes years.
“Research has shown that children do best when their stay in foster care is short, rather than long,” said John Wyble, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates, an advocacy group for abused and neglected children in the state’s care.
The state looks at counseling and social services to help “provide a safe environment … to reunify the child with its family,” said Hebert. In the interim, the child lives with a foster family.
Individuals wanting to be foster parents or adopt a child in state care must have sufficient income to take care of their needs; the state provides a small stipend to help cover the expense of taking care of the foster child. They attend 21 to 30 hours of state-provided training to help prepare them to take care of children placed into their homes.
“Our goal is to get (foster) children back into their homes of origin within 12 months,” said Hebert. “The reality is that we sometimes do not reach that goal.”
In the 2012 fiscal year, nearly three quarters of Louisiana children removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect were eventually reunited with their birth parents, relatives or other family members. About 18 percent of children exiting foster care in that time were adopted.
Having more foster and adoptive families available helps ensure a safe, stable environment for these children while they are part of the foster care system.
Adoption, foster care in Louisiana by the numbers
According to Department of Children and Family Services, in Louisiana there are:
4,002 children in foster care.
1,944 certified foster families.
646 children available for adoption.
269 are without identified adoptive placements.
1,938 adoptions were finalized in the past three years.
In 2012 fiscal year:
7,741 children were placed in foster care.
468 families adopted 652 children.
Ages of children in Louisiana foster care:
33 percent are up to 2 years old.
19 percent are 3 to 5 years old.
15 percent are 6 to 8 years old.
12 percent are 9 to 11 years old.
12 percent are 12 to 14 years old.
9 percent are 15 to 17 years old.
Racial makeup of foster children:
49 percent of foster children are white.
47 percent are black or African-American.