By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
March 4, 2004
Alabama’s adoption activity in 2004 could reap more rewards for the state thanks to the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003.
Signed into law in December by President Bush, the law allows states to receive extra incentive money based on the number of older children adopted each year.
The new law renews a 1997 law that provides $4,000 to the state per finalized adoption, regardless of the child’s age and $6,000 for each special needs child adopted. But it adds an additional $4,000 to the state for each child adopted who is 9 years old or older. This is because most people prefer to adopt younger children or infants.
According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR), the state benefited from the 1997 law by receiving $519,821 for 838 adoptions from 1999 to 2002.
The incentive money will have no effect on the cost of adopting in Alabama, nor is it distributed directly to foster children, families or private child welfare agencies. The DHR receives 100 percent of the funds into its budget and the entire amount is allocated for the recruitment of foster parents and adoptive parents, their training and materials with which to train them.
While praising the previous adoptions in Alabama, newly appointed DHR Commissioner Page Walley appeals to Christians on behalf of the 200 children currently awaiting placement by the DHR Alabama office of adoption.
“As a Christian, I think we should hold true to our belief that involves taking care of orphans and widows‚” he said. “Putting our faith into action means taking care of the least of these.” Walley — a licensed counselor, former Tennessee legislator and licensed Southern Baptist minister — believes bringing a child into a home is an act of worship.
“It is a calling,” Walley said. “Taking care of children is our Christian duty and when we do [it], we are blessed.”
The number of finalized adoptions in Alabama has risen since 1999 when 152 children were adopted. Couples adopted 200 children in 2000, 237 in 2001 and 249 in 2002. The figures for 2003 were not finalized at press time.
Walley said the children who are available for adoption through the state DHR are there because parental rights have been terminated for various reasons.
Some children in foster care or awaiting adoption have special medical or emotional needs. These needs should be carefully considered by prospective parents, since adoption is a final commitment to a child.
“People need to have open hearts and need to realize that they come out of situations not of their own making,” Walley said. “We need to recognize that these children really are the least of these.”
Children categorized as having special medical or emotional needs include any child over the age of 8; any black child over the age of 2; a child with mental, physical or emotional difficulties; sibling groups of three or more and a child with a high risk background, such as one born to a cocaine-addicted mother.
“We need to support the (DHR) workers. Sometimes they may fail but more often they are the only safety net for these children.” One idea Walley has for churches and individuals to support DHR is to “spiritually” adopt children. “We need to commit to prayer for children and workers. Their battle is not just physical, but they need spiritual protection and they need to know they are loved,” he said.
Walley said a Web site set up by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services features photos and biographies of children awaiting adoption in Alabama and other states — www.adoptuskids.org.
“We need to bathe them in prayer. As a body of believers, we must pray,” he said.
To adopt a child an Alabama couple must be at least 19 years old, have been married for three or more years and undergo 30 classroom hours of training by DHR. Other requirements apply, including but not limited to criminal background checks.
A child lives with his or her adoptive parents for three months before the adoption process can be sanctioned by the courts, plus a social worker must give consent for the adoption to proceed. At this point the couple begins the legal process in probate court. Once this court process is complete, the adoption is finalized and the state may then receive funds from the Adoption Act of 2003.
A ministry opportunity can also be found through foster care. Eligibility requirements include the foster parent’s being at least 19 years old, the ability to provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the child with enough space for the child and his/her belongings and a home that conforms to Alabama minimum standards for foster family homes. Another requirement is that all members of the family be in good health, with all adults agreeing to undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history.
Every county offers a local department of human resources that provides the 30-hour preparation course for foster care with foster families receiving guidance from an assigned social worker.
Foster parents receive a monthly payment for room and board, but are limited to a maximum of six children at one time.
Prospective foster parents can also contact the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH). With campuses for children and youth in Decatur and Mobile and group homes in Mobile, Dothan, Gardendale, Oxford and Alabaster, ABCH also licenses and trains foster families. Paul Miller, ABCH executive director, said they are always in need of Christian couples.
“This is a ministry opportunity and we are looking for the type of people who are willing to open their homes and invest in children‚” Miller said. The staff, which includes social workers and counselors, provides supportive services and works diligently to match families with children, he added.
To contact ABCH, call 205-982-1112, 1-888-720-8805 or visit the resources section of www.thealabamabaptist.org.
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