By Alex Gonzalez, Public News Service
One organization wants to help the longest waiting children in Arizona’s foster-care system find their way into loving, adoptive family homes.
Rita Soronen, CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, said Arizona was one of the first states where they launched their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Program, a child-focused recruitment model, which Soronen noted works to help children with a higher likelihood of going through the foster care system and not being adopted.
Soronen added the goal is to get enough youths adopted from the foster system, so the state can then use the savings to pay for the program independently. Currently, there are three adoption recruiters which are privately funded by the foundation in the state.
“They’ve finalized over time more than 340 adoptions, the average age of the child that they’re serving is 14, I think 95% of those children that they’re serving are in sibling groups,” Soronen outlined. “They’re really right in the heart of that focus population. What we would love to continue to do in Arizona, is take this program to scale.”
Soronen emphasized in order to take things to scale and get 20 to 30 recruiters in Arizona, it takes what she calls a “co-investment relationship” between the state or counties and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to serve all children in need. Since 2005, the foundation has served 606 youths in Arizona and are currently serving 58.
Jeanie Gaskill, an adoptive parent, and her husband were presented with the opportunity to foster two siblings through one of the foundation’s three recruiters, which would lead to their eventual adoption by the couple.
She said it was nice for the children to meet her and her husband first as their foster parents, as it alleviated some of the pressure. After six months, they decided to adopt the siblings. Gaskill recommended families interested in fostering and adoption learn about what she called “trauma-informed parenting.”
“Because it is completely different than parenting a child who you gave birth to or has not experienced trauma,” Gaskill explained. “It is very different and it is a mind shift. I have a social work background, so it wasn’t that much of a jump for me, but it can be, I think, for a lot of people.”
Gaskill added it is important to give children time to process and realize they might present one way and feel totally different on the inside. She advised everyone to take their time and educate themselves as much as possible.
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This article originally appeared in Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license