By Beth Lawrence
The website adoptkids.org shows nearly 200 children awaiting adoption in North Carolina. Most of those children are over age 5 with many in their teens or preteens; some are siblings.
November is national adoption month, and Jackson County is in need of parents willing to adopt a child looking for a permanent home.
“For the most part, people are more interested in younger children,” said Kim Poteet, Jackson County DSS’ social worker in charge of foster parent licensing. “Lots of times children go into foster care and may be in foster care for several years before the permanent plan is changed to adoption. When we take a child into custody, the first thing we do is try to work a plan of reunification with their biological parents.”
The decision to terminate a parent’s rights, permanently removing the child from the family, can take several years. When that happens, the child becomes available for adoption. While they wait for adoption, they remain in foster care or group homes. During that time, they continue to age and are sometimes overlooked by families hoping to adopt a baby or small child.
“As a child gets older it gets more and more difficult to find placements for them in foster homes,” Poteet said. “I would say the difficulty really starts in the teenage years. It progressively gets harder and harder as the child gets older.”
Sometimes children turn 18 years old and age out of the system while waiting for an adoptive family.
Jackson County is lucky because that rarely happens, Poteet said.
Even so, the county needs people willing to adopt.
Jackson County currently has 16 foster families and 76 children in foster care, some needing permanent homes.
A good first step to adopting is becoming a foster parent.
Already having been certified as a foster parent streamlines the overall process and makes placing a child with a family easier, Poteet said.
Potential adoptive parents must go through largely the same certification process as foster parents. Therefore, anyone looking to adopt would already have cleared those hurdles and be ready to make a foster situation permanent.
“We do keep in mind when a child comes into care the families who are fostering to adopt; they usually are our first choice for placement,” she said.
Fostering is not a prerequisite, potential adoptive families are not required to be licensed as foster parents.
Adoptive parents will not be on their own if they adopt through social services. Help is still available.
“If a child has issues before they are adopted that are the result of abuse or neglect that they suffered that caused them to be in foster care, we do have adoption assistance that helps with certain medical and psychological costs,” Poteet said.
Anyone willing to open their home must meet certain criteria.
They must be at least 18 to become an adoptive parent or 21 to foster. Marital status is not a criteria, nor is homeownership or parenting experience.
Prospective parents must undergo fingerprinting, a background check and a home study and inspection.
Most agencies provide parenting classes for those willing to adopt, and anyone wishing to foster is required to have 30 hours of classes.
To see North Carolina children awaiting a permanent home, visit adoptuskids.org/states/nc/browse.aspx.
To learn about adoption or fostering options in Jackson County, call Poteet at 587-2058.