Adoption orientation planned

They don't ask for much.

In fact, thousands of Arizona children want what many children take for granted – a home with parents who love and care for them.

But the sad reality is that in Arizona 6,121 children have become wards of the court after being removed from homes where they have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused, or abandoned or neglected.

While the child is in a temporary foster home, parents must work to regain custody of children by attending parenting classes or counseling sessions.

They must then prove to the court that they have changed for the better, and they must do so in a timely manner – 18 months.

"The first 18 months are spent trying to reunite the family," said Jennifer Green, an adoptions specialist with Arizona's Children Association.

"If that is not successful a case plan for adoption is created."

While children are in the foster care system, volunteers known as court-appointed special advocates speak for children in court and become their friends.

Volunteers are closely screened and receive training in how to represent the child on all levels.

Parents are no longer given years to clean up their acts while children taken from the home struggle to fit into one temporary home after another.

According to Ro Hollingsworth, supervisor of the Mohave County advocate program, judges and child advocates are trying to limit the time that children are placed in foster care.

"In the past kids could be in the foster care system for four or five years.

They grew up in the system.

It was a bad thing," Hollingsworth said.

"But things are improving for these kids.

Now, within about 18 months a decision is made.

If a parent fails to prove to the court that he or she will be a better parent within a certain time, parental rights can be severed, and a case plan for permanent adoption can be developed, she said.

That is where Green becomes involved.

"It is an incredible feeling to provide a child with a forever family and provide the family with the child they have been longing for," Green said.

"It is a long, challenging process, but in the end it all worth it."

Of the 6,121 children in the foster care system in Arizona only 1,714 have a case-plan goal of adoption, and only 1,089 are legally free to be adopted, she said.

It is Green's job to represent the family hoping to adopt a child, a process that takes four to six months of screening and interviews.

The younger the child, the better his or her chances of being adopted are, but Green said there are many rewards to adopting an older child.

"I urge people to keep an open mind," she said.

"I've had parents whose heart was set on an infant, but when they meet the child of 10 or 12 they fall in love and start adoption proceedings."

In the eight months she has worked for Arizona's Children Association, Green said she has placed a set of siblings and another child for adoption.

"I encourage everyone, whether married or single, to apply if they feel they can provide a stable, loving home for a child," she said.

Arizona's Children Association is planning an Adoptions Orientation in Bullhead City on May 29, in Lake Havasu City on May 30 and in Kingman on June 5.

Call Green at (877) 680-3403 for times and locations of orientations.

"This is an opportunity to gather information and discover how to provide a forever home for a child," Green said.