North Carolina celebrates Adoption Day and Adoption Awareness Month

Published 10:00 pm Friday, November 18, 2016

Foster homes needed in Polk County

MILL SPRING– The Polk County Department of Social Services (DSS) is recognizing its parents who have adopted in recognition of November being Adoption Awareness Month and Nov. 19 being Adoption Day.

There have been four adoptions finalized through foster parenting in Polk County in the last two years, according to the Polk County DSS.

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Polk County is currently in great need of additional foster homes as more children are taken into DSS custody every year than there are available foster homes.

There are currently 14 foster homes (11 licensed and some in the process of becoming licensed) in Polk County. Often there are more children in Polk DSS custody than there are homes, so children have to go to group homes outside of Polk County.

There are typically 46 children taken into DSS custody in a year in Polk County, with 33 children currently in state custody.

Of the 33 children, only 16 of those children are being housed in Polk County and the other 17 are housed in other counties.

“It’s heartbreaking when you have to take them out of their community and their school” said Ruth Richardson, Polk County foster care licensing and adoption social worker. “They have to start over where nothing is familiar.”

Reasons children are taken into DSS custody include abuse, neglect and dependency, Richardson said. Polk DSS also tries to keep siblings together when possible.

“We’re looking for safety for that child,” said Richardson. “We always try to match them with a foster home so there’s no disruptions. If you have to move a kid (to another foster home), again, that is really rough for a kid.”

Foster parents are able to adopt some children if a child is identified as adoptable.

Polk County DSS prepares necessary paperwork for court and other agencies as well as guides the parents through the adoption process. Adoption is not necessary to become a foster parent, however.

To become a foster parent a person or family has to complete a 30-hour MAPP class to help identify and prepare prospective adoptive parents. Other requirements include background checks, home and fire inspections and physicals.

If a foster parent ends up legally adopting a child, assistance from the state continues.

Richardson said Polk DSS provides in most cases, adoptive assistance (a monthly check) once a child is adopted as well as ongoing case management services and links parents with counseling and other resources, if needed. Both foster parents and adoptive parents (adoptions through fostering) receive monetary assistance from the state until the child reaches 18 years and most children qualify for Medicaid health insurance.

Richardson said currently Polk only has two foster homes willing to take teens, so most teens are removed from the county and sent to another county group home.

“Our current foster parents are in my opinion, like gold,” Richardson said. “I honestly don’t know what we would do without them. Every kid would be taken out of the community if not for our foster homes.”

Richardson also said when children have to go to other county group homes, the costs for that child rise tremendously. DSS is completely funded through tax dollars, including federal, state and county dollars.

Any Polk County residents interested in becoming a foster parent or adoption through foster parenting are urged to contact Richardson at 828-894-2100.

Richardson said the MAPP classes are currently offered at least twice a year but there is also another, more convenient option offered in Polk County called Deciding Together.

Richardson is now certified to go offer the program at people’s homes who are interested in becoming a foster parent. Deciding Together lasts for 7-8 weeks, with Richardson visiting a home to provide the program once a week. Both MAPPS and Deciding Together help families decide if they want to become foster parents or not.

Following is a proclamation N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory recently signed to recognize Adoption Awareness month and day.

WHEREAS, North Carolina families are encouraged to share their hearts and homes with youth ages nine and older who are waiting to be adopted; and

WHEREAS, every child deserves the opportunity to grow up in a loving, stable home and adoption is one way to build a family; and

WHEREAS, caring adults can make all the difference in the lives of young people, sibling groups, children with special needs and teenagers; and

WHEREAS, in 2015, 1,304 children were adopted from foster care; and

WHEREAS, every county department of social services in the state of North Carolina has worked diligently to place foster children in adoptive homes; and

WHEREAS, the North Carolina Kids Adoption and Foster Care Network, within the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Social Services, recruits approved adoptive families with the hope of placing current children in foster care who are awaiting adoption; and

WHEREAS, the state of North Carolina joins the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services in spreading awareness on behalf of the hundreds of children in foster care in our state who continue to wait for a permanent home;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Pat McCrory, Governor of the state of North Carolina, do hereby proclaim November 2016 as “Adoption Awareness Month” and Nov. 19, 2016 as “Adoption Awareness Day” in North Carolina, and commend its observance to all citizens.