17 Nov Recognizing the Need and Ways to Help
“A child is not looking for a perfect parent, but to feel loved and understood. We are blessed to be a step along the journey in the growth of a new family” -Emily Thompson, VP of Community Programs CHRIS 180
Happy National Adoption Month! While the month of November is dedicated to bringing awareness to the need to have more foster and adoptive parents, CHRIS 180’s Adoptions and Foster Care team works each day to empower people to impact the lives of children in care.
At CHRIS 180 we provide therapeutic foster care services to children up to age 21 in the custody of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. We also offer an array of adoption services for both in state and out-of-state adoptions for children in the foster care system. Children within state custody each have a permanency goal. These permanency goals are:
- Permanent Guardianship or APPLA (Another Planned Living Arrangement)
What are the Needs?
Last year, approximately 14,000 children were in foster care in Georgia. Over 2,000 of those children had a permanency goal of adoption and 350 of these children were available for adoption. This means that 350 children in Georgia do not have an identified adoption resource ( i.e. relative or extended family member, fictive kin or a foster parent who is willing to adopt them, according to adoptuskids.org). CHRIS 180 opens, licenses and supports foster, adoptive and foster-to-adopt homes in order to increase the number of family homes to help these children. Within our program we help and support children and families across all Georgia counties. We also match and link parents to children who are eligible for adoption from Georgia and throughout the country through interstate agreements/compacts. In 2019, CHRIS 180 assisted 10 children to find forever homes through our traditional foster care and adoption program.
Another way we support permanency (adoption or reunification) for children in foster care is through our Gateway to Adoption program. Through this program we have the privilege of reuniting siblings who have been separated from each other while in state custody. This program not only reunites siblings, it wraps them in the support services necessary to address their educational, physical, social and mental health needs. It helps them overcome issues that may be barriers to finding their forever home (permanency as the State of Georgia refers to it). Last year, CHRIS 180’s two Gateway homes assisted in the reunification and stabilization of three different sibling groups. And, for the first time since the start of our Gateway to Adoption program, we identified an adoption resource for a sibling group within our traditional foster care and adoption program! Because this work is so vital, we have also identified two new Gateway homes which we plan to open within the first quarter of 2021.
How Can I Help?
While the number of children in foster care is significant, we are not discouraged! We are currently recruiting parent resources to close the gap between children in need and available placement resources. Here is a list of ways you can help:
- Become a Therapeutic Foster Parent – This is a foster parent who is willing to work with foster children and their biological families (with guidance from the state) to meet the needs of the child or children. If a foster parent is caring for a child who is unable to return home, they are usually the first to be asked if they would like to adopt that child. * In Georgia the greatest need is for therapeutic foster parents.
- Become a Respite Care Parent– Some people are unable to be a full-time foster parent but still want to have an impact. An option is to be a respite foster parent who is willing to provide a home for a planned or short-term emergency placements. Respite parents also support other foster parents by giving them a break during which the foster child visits them. These types of placements are usually seven days or less.
- Become a Foster-to-Adopt Parent- This is a therapeutic foster parent who is willing to adopt a child who is placed in their home that needs an adoptive family. A foster-to-adopt parent also has the option to be matched with other adoptive placements. Some parents seeking adoption decide to approach adoption this way.
- Become an Adoptive Parent- This is a parent or parents who want to adopt a child or children who are legally free for adoption. Adoptive parents do not take foster care placements. Adoptive parents participate in an adoption matching process that often includes visitation and are matched with both in-state and out-of-state children in need of adoptive resources.
- Adopt/Sponsor a child or children in foster care for a holiday or birthday
- Donate supplies or services (school supplies, meals, dance classes, movies tickets etc.)
- Make a financial contribution to CHRIS 180
- Spread the word about the need for all types of foster, respite and adoptive parent resources to support children in foster care
If you have any questions pertaining to adoption or foster care please visit CHRISadoptions.org.
Sharika Zellars MA, LPC is the Program Director of CHRIS 180’s Adoption and Foster Care Program. Sharika is a licensed counselor and has 15 years of experience working with children and families and has worked in the field of adoption and foster care for eight years.