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Vickroy: Adoptive parents needed in south suburbs

Donald Adams Blue Islfigures he has helped raise 50 100 teenage boys over past 10 years.  |  Supplied

Donald Adams, of Blue Island, figures he has helped raise 50 to 100 teenage boys over the past 10 years. | Supplied photo

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If you go ...

What: Adoption Recruitment Night (adults only)

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: DCFS building, 15115 Dixie Highway, Harvey

Contact: (708) 210-2800

MORE INFORMATION

For more information on adoption and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, visit http://state.il.us/dcfs/adoption/index.shtml

For more information on the Adoption Information Center of Illinois, visit http:
//www.adoptinfo-il.org/

For more information on Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, visit https://www.davethomasfoundation.org/what-we-do/wendys-wonderful-kids/

Updated: March 27, 2014 6:18AM



While it’s not necessarily easy to adopt children through the foster care system, it does have its rewards.

Actually, that’s an understatement if you ask Donald Adams, of Blue Island.

Over the past 10 years, Adams figures he’s helped raise 50 to 100 teenage boys. About 20 came to him through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services foster care system. Others by association — through his own children’s friends or through his church. Adams also adopted three of the boys, two of whom still live at home.

“I was raised without a father,” said Adams, who is divorced and lives in Blue Island. “I understand the effects of that. I wanted to help other young men with their male development.”

It’s people such as Adams, who have experience with foster care and adoption, who state DCFS officials are pointing to as they lead recruitment efforts aimed at finding loving and stable homes for children in need of a permanent family. On Thursday, DCFS, in collaboration with the Adoption Information Center of Illinois and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, is hosting an Adoption Recruitment night at its DCFS building in Harvey. The event is open to the public.

It is an opportunity for concerned adults to learn more about the plight of children in the foster care system, perhaps leading to a decision to adopt.

Adams, who also has four birth children, designs curriculum at Governors State University for training professionals who work with youth through DCFS. He became a foster care parent while working as a group home supervisor. “One young man wanted me to adopt him,” Adams said. Thus began a decade of caring for fatherless teenage boys.

“At some point I decided that if I’m going to invest the time, I might as well make it a lifelong investment,” he said.

Adams said going from foster care to adoption can change a child profoundly.

“There are no more worries about being moved again,” he said. “There is stability, family connections. A child can say, ‘Here’s somebody who will be responsible for me until I can be responsible for myself.’ And even after independence, there is someone you can call Dad.”

Though the young men he has cared for are all older now, in their 20s and beyond, he keeps in touch with them all, he said.

“Everybody’s on Facebook,” he said.

Children in need

It is unfair that children are made to suffer because of the struggles of their birth parents. Yet so many do, particularly in Chicago’s south suburbs.

“I have a theory,” says Adrienne Taylor, acting license manager for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in Cook County. “When the projects were dismantled in Chicago, a lot of those people migrated into the south suburbs. Some of the challenges followed.”

Foremost among those challenges is drug abuse. Taylor said since the housing transition, the department has gotten more calls about neglect and abuse of children stemming from drug-related problems among parents.

Drug-addicted parents often don’t feed their children properly, don’t take them to the doctor when they’re sick and tend to be more transient, Taylor said.

“And sometimes there are mental health issues,” she added.

According to department statistics, nearly one-third of the 14,912 children in Illinois living in foster care or the care of a relative, institution or group home hail from Cook County. Of the 5,555 in need of a permanent home in Cook County, 4,084 are black, with males outnumbering females by more than 400.

The aim of DCFS is to get these children out of foster care and into a permanent home, ideally within the same school district, Taylor said.

“Transition can be very traumatic,” she said.

Loving home is most important

Latrice Palmer, who works for DCFS, became an adopting parent because she felt it was the right thing to do. As a department representative, not only was she recommending that others consider adoption, she often came in contact with children from whom it was simply difficult to walk away.

The south suburban mother has adopted three kids over the years. She, too, cites drug abuse as the leading cause of abuse and neglect.

“Being removed from a birth home is traumatic,” she said. “It’s all a child knows. That was home, despite all the circumstances and problems.”

What foster care children need most is a loving, nurturing home where there is stability and unconditional love, Palmer said. Sometimes, the department can work with birth parents to make changes, but when the situation is not fixable, the children are placed in the system.

Taylor said there is a great need for caring, compassionate, stable people to consider adoption.

To qualify, Taylor said, your home will be assessed for safety, you’ll have to divulge income and answer questions about your own background. Investigators will want to know how you grew up and how you feel about your parents. But, she said, one thing that will not be an issue or hindrance is if you are legally divorced or in a civil union.

Many people who end up adopting say they want to give back to society. Some were in foster care at one time. Others want to invest in our nation’s youth, Taylor said.

Services are available to help adoptive parents deal with at-risk youngsters. Other support features include reimbursement for costs associated with the adoption or guardianship, such as attorney fees and court costs; continued support of the child’s basic needs like food and clothing through monthly adoption subsidies; supplemental assistance with health care needs through enrollment in Medicaid; support groups, counseling, ongoing training; counseling services for the family and child, if needed; and therapeutic day care.

On Thursday, you can learn more about the process, ask your own questions and meet the people who work behind the scenes to give children a loving home.

“It’s a chance to get a feel for the process,” Taylor said. “You don’t have to jump right in.”



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