BY ANGIE HAFLICH
It's common knowledge that infants have a greater likelihood of being adopted than older kids, but agencies in southwest Kansas and across the state work hard to help all kids find good homes.
Amy Falcon, social worker director of the Teen Moms Program at Catholic Social Services in Dodge City, said in the 28 counties they serve, there were seven infant adoptions in southwest Kansas in the last year, which she said is pretty high for the area.
CSS helps pregnant women and adoptive families to come together, prior to birth.
"We do the pregnancy counseling for the birth mothers and then we have our families that we prepare for adoption and then the birth mothers pick families that they want and we kind of help that all work out," Falcon said.
Additionally, the organization maintains an online system that contains the profiles of qualified adoptive families, which allows mothers who have already given birth but have decided on adoption after the fact to view profiles of prospective adoptive families.
"We've even had some where they've taken the baby home and decided they couldn't do it, so they call us, too," Falcon said.
Older children who are available for adoption typically come from situations where their parents either aren't taking proper care of them or extenuating circumstances have resulted in the Kansas Department of Children and Families taking custody.
According to the DCF as of January, 6,409 kids were in DCF custody statewide, which means the children have remained in their homes, placed in settings outside their homes, or have never been removed into an out-of-home placement (foster home).
Of the statewide number of kids in DCF custody, 953 were available for adoption as of January.
"Roughly ... 400 or so of the kids listed on there are ones who don't have an identified resource and that means that those are kids that nobody has really stepped up to say, 'Hey I'm interested in adopting them,' whether it's a family member or a foster home that they're in, or anybody that's connected with the child," Corey Lada, community relations coordinator for Adopt Kansas Kids said.
Marty Helget, adoption and kinship director at St.Francis Community Services, said that in the western region, which is made up of 41 counties, including Finney, there are approximately 300 children currently available for adoption.
"Of those, about 80 don't have identified resources," Helget said.
Lada said there are a number of factors that can hinder a child's chances for adoption.
"The majority of the kids we work with through Adopt Kansas Kids are over the age of 7 and it becomes harder when the kids get older. It's really hard for teenagers," Lada said.
He added that sibling groups are difficult to place.
"They could be younger kids, but they're just part of a really large sibling group where there is five and six kids that we want to make sure stay together and get adopted together, so that's difficult. You need to find a family that can do that," Lada said. "So those are the kids that we're trying to find families for."
Helget said his agency is always seeking more foster families in all regions of the state.
"We're always trying to get more because we want to keep kids as close as we can to their home areas," he said.
Helget said that while the numbers fluctuate, foster families account for approximately 60 percent of all adoptions and relatives, or kinship adoptions, account for the rest.
Lada said a common misconception about adoption is that it costs a lot of money.
"What's cool about adopting a kid out of foster care is that it costs little to nothing. A lot of times it's pretty minimal and if there is a cost, it's reimbursable. We're wanting to get that out there because sometimes people misunderstand that," Lada said. "We have a lot of people who are single, people of modest incomes that can adopt."
According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, the cost of placing children from the foster-care system into adoptive homes ranges from zero to $2,500.
For more information about adoption, profiles of children in Kansas who are awaiting adoption, or about becoming a foster parent, visit www.st-francis.org or www.adoptkansaskids.org.
For information about infant adoption, visit www.catholicsocialservice.org.