Too many children, not enough homes

When it comes to adopting children, whether it be foreign or domestic, the obstacles can be devastating. Social Psychologist Susan Newman discussed the various barriers that couples face when looking into adoption.

“If you adopt a child from the welfare system, the child will most likely be over the age of three,” Newman said in an article published in Psychology Today. “I can attest to the fact that in a short lifetime, children in foster care will probably have been subject to considerable emotional and/or physical deprivation and/or abuse that leaves scars and behavioral problems adopted parents will work hard to surmount for years.”

Nearly 18 million orphans live in orphanages or on the streets worldwide, according to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. There are 397,122 children in the foster care system in the United States alone, 101,666 of which are available to be adopted. The U.S. State Department reported that in 2012, Americans only adopted roughly 7,000 children, not even coming close to providing homes for the majority of these children.

Newman mentioned many other factors that cause problems for couples wanting to adopt such as high cost, legality issues when adopting from other countries and delays stemming from the large amount of paperwork that most be completed.

Despite these obstacles, couples around Northwest Arkansas are willing to take the necessary steps in order to pursue their dreams of building a family.

Siloam Springs’ city communication manager Holland Hayden and her husband Kolin Blakeley recently adopted a baby boy through an adoption attorney based in Rogers.

“Less than 5 percent of unwanted pregnancies end in adoption here in the United States, so if you’re wanting to adopt a newborn, it’s an uphill battle,” Hayden said. “Adoption of a newborn — even domestically — is very expensive and the community, our friends and our family really helped us raise some money for the cost of the fees.”

After a GoFundMe campaign on social media, a fundraising party with silent auction and an adoption awareness event, the couple raised about $6,000, making a dent in the over $40,000 total costs they were facing.

This $40,000 included fees related to vetting adoptive parents, informing birth mothers of the process and their rights and medical bills.

Hayden and Blakely said their journey was undoubtedly emotional, but ended happily when they were able to hold their son Henry for the first time.

Such happy endings are what the Northwest Arkansas ministry The CALL is hoping for. The CALL, which stands for ‘The Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime,’ is a Christian non-profit advocacy organization that focuses on recruiting families to become healthy foster homes, working with the Division of Children and Family Services to provide training to potential foster parents.

In addition to recruiting families to foster and adopt, The CALL works with local churches to provide support for foster and adoptive families in whatever way they can.

Kyle Agee, an instructor of visual arts at John Brown University, works with The CALL. He and his wife intend to become foster parents.

What attracted Agee most to the foster care system, he said, was the great need. According to The CALL’s website, “today, more than a dozen children will come into foster care in Arkansas because of abuse or neglect. They will join nearly 4,500 other children in state custody.”

In Arkansas there are only 1,110 open foster homes, while there are 3,988 children who need homes. Even if each home takes in two foster children, that will still leave almost 1,800 children without a home.

The CALL believes that “Having a pool of available foster and adoptive families in every county in Arkansas would go a long way toward solving the problem.”

The process of becoming a foster parent is not an easy one, however. The Department of Children and Family Services does in-depth background checks and home visits to ensure that the house is safe and comfortable for a child.

“The first step is you attending an informational meeting, where they explain the need and what the expected requirements are,” Agee said. “They answer the questions people have concerning whether this is something they can really do. Then at the end of that meeting they hand out the first stack of paperwork.”

Agee’s first stack of paperwork was a thorough background check that questioned whether he had ever harmed any child, person or animal. It also checked the financial stability of the couple.

“At The CALL, their primary goal is to always provide a safe environment for these kids, because they are always being pulled out of a dangerous environments,” said Agee about the beginning of the process.

The next step includes two different home visits. During the first visit, the Department of Family Services ensures that the prospective family offers a safe environment, checking for smoke detectors, proper plumbing, ventilation, heat, adequate space, etc.

The department then informs the potential foster parents of what needs to be brought up to code. The second visit verifies that problems found during the first visit are taken care of.

Despite the difficulty of the process, Agee believes becoming a foster parent is worth the tedium, and that foster care is an issue that the church should place a stronger focus on.

“At this time it is not that big of a priority,” Agee said of the church’s response to the foster system. “This is a heart issue for the church. We have to ask ourselves how we are utilizing the time we have been given for the kingdom.”