Adoption Awareness Celebration highlights needs of children waiting for permanent homes

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

"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," said Green, a Family Resource Developer with Arizona's Children Association.

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

November has been designated the month to celebrate children waiting for adoptive parents and families who have adopted, while increasing public awareness of adoption.

Approximately 6,195 Arizona children who live away from their birth families in substitute foster care want what many children take for granted - a home with parents who love and care for them.

But the sad reality is that 1,689 of these children cannot return to their birth families and become wards of the court after being removed from a home where they have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused, or have been abandoned or neglected.

Although reunification with the birth parents is the primary goal of foster care it is not always the end result.

"The first 18 months are spent trying to reunite the family," Green said.

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

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

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.

While children are in the foster care system a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer speaks for the child in court and becomes the child's friend.

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

If a parent fails to prove to the court that he or she will be a better parent within the allotted time, parental rights could be severed and a new case plan with a goal of permanent adoption is developed, Green said.

The younger the child, the better his or her chances of being adopted are, but Green said there are also 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."

During November Arizona's Children Association will honor families who open their hearts to adopt a child; and also focus on the many children who still live in the shadow of uncertainty because they have no family to call their own.

"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 Adoption Awareness Celebration from 9 a.m.

to noon Saturday at the Nautical Inn Resort (on the island), 1000 McCulloch Blvd., Conference Rooms A & B, Lake Havasu City.

The public is invited to attend.

Adults will have the opportunity to gather information and resources about adoption; and children of all ages can enjoy activity demonstrations, face painting and balloon animals.

There will also be a drawing for gift baskets.

For more information regarding The Adoption Awareness Celebration contact Green at Arizona's Children Association, (928) 680-4458 or (877) 680-3403.

For information about the association visit their website at www.arizonaschildren.org.