National Adoption Month: 'God directed me'|DHR encourages adoption
Published 11:10 am Monday, November 30, 2009
Story and Photo by Lydia Grimes
Frances Lewis has been a dedicated foster mother for more than a decade, loving children and letting them go when the time was right.
But one little girl wouldn’t let go of her heart.
Carita was in Escambia County’s foster care system but was hospitalized in Mobile, and Lewis was asked to stay with her at the hospital.
Lewis had already looked after 15 to 20 children as a foster parent since 1996.
But staying at the hospital with Carita tugged at Lewis like nothing ever had.
That kind of happy ending is what the Department of Human Resources aims for in adoption cases, senior social worker Tracie James said.
An average of 11 children are placed in adoptive homes through DHR each year in Escambia County. One has been finalized this year, with seven pending; seven were done last year and 14 the year before that. All adoptions were completed by foster parents.
Because DHR works toward family reunification, the age of the children available for adoption is often older.
Foster parents are always needed in Escambia County, James said.
While adoptive parents do not have to be foster parents first, they have already passed many of the necessary requirements for adoption.
Children are not placed in a foster home until the foster parents have undergone 10 weeks of training. Foster parents also have to pass a criminal and abuse background check. Most people who enter the system who want to eventually adopt can undergo the training and checks, saving some time down the road.
Foster parents are reimbursed for expenses, but James and Cooper said foster parents admit they spend more than they get.
For James, working to help place children in foster care and with adoptive families has a personal side: James herself is an adopted child.
Contact between birth parents and adoptive families is encouraged by the Escambia County DHR through open adoptions, James said.
According to the Alabama Department of Human Resouces, there are 539 children waiting to be adopted in Alabama. In 2009, they have placed 179 children in adoptive homes, 28 in non-foster homes and 179 in foster homes.
For more information about foster care or adoption, call Tracie James at 809-2000, or go to the DHR website at www.adoptuskids.org/state/al and click on the browse button. There are photographs and information about those children who need a good home.