Monday, October 30, 2000

Foster kids await adoption

More get permanent homes

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Jennifer Shaffer's story is one of abuse, failed attempts to run away, and moving around from foster home to foster home as a teen.

        Now a Northern Kentucky University student, Ms. Shaffer admits that the experiences made her an overly independent foster child. She remembers not wanting to mind her foster parents' rules.

        “People who weren't my real parents were giving me rules when to study,” said Ms. Shaffer, 21. “Why do you want people who aren't your real parents telling you (things)?”

        Looking back at all the moving she did as a foster child, she believes her late teens could have been happier years if she had been adopted.

        November is National Adoption Month. More than 116,000 foster children are waiting for permanent adoptive families. About 250 are from Boone, Grant, Campbell, Kenton, Carroll, Owen, Gallatin and Pendleton counties.

        For more foster children, adoption — and the stability and security that it brings — is becoming a reality. Last year, 46,000 children were adopted from the nation's foster care system — an 84 percent increase from the number adopted five years earlier.

        Mary Jo Kasak, a social-services specialist who handles foster care matters in Northern Kentucky, said the trend is evident by the rising number of foster care homes dually certified to adopt children in the eight-county, Northern Kentucky region.

        Roughly half of the 146 foster homes have this dual certification. Only 5 percent had this certification a decade ago, Ms. Kasak said.

        Couples wanting to adopt but not wanting to wait several years help explain the jump, she said. There also are more subsidies available for adoptive parents needing to meet the medical, educational and psychological needs of former foster children who suffered from neglect, and physical and sexual abuse.

        “Your life is going to be different,” Ms. Kasak said. “If you really want a baby, don't come to us. All of our kids have been through some sort of trauma. They're not going to be easy to parent, but we're going to provide as much support as we can.”

        While adopting these children brings challenges, many Northern Kentucky families say the move enriched their lives.

        “You couldn't do a better thing for these children,” said Karen Nash, 42, of Pendleton County.

        She and her husband, Tony, have two sons of their own and have adopted three foster children. They want to open a foster home for terminally ill children.

        “All you need to give them is love,” she said. “It costs a lot of time and love, but it doesn't cost money. I wouldn't trade it for a million bucks.”

        Patrick and Mary Steiner of Lakeside Park also have adopted foster children over the years. Many foster children have stayed with them merely on a temporary basis, sometimes just for a night.

        Mrs. Steiner said there's always an initial awkwardness.

        “You don't know what to expect from the child. The child is usually very frightened,” she said. “Our goal is to be a support for the child.”

        While more foster children are getting adopted, the nation's public foster care system went from 340,000 in 1988 to 560,000 in 1998 — a 65 percent jump, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families.


               Adoption Fair 2000 will provide information on how to move from foster parenting to adopting a foster child.

        Sponsored by several Tristate agencies, including the Kentucky Cabinet for Families & Children, the fair will happen from 1-4 p.m. Sunday at The Syndicate restaurant, 18 E. Fifth St., Newport.

        Information booths also will focus on trans-racial, international, and teen-age and sibling adoptions. For more information, call (859) 292-6340.


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