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How Does Adoption Connection PA Help Build Local Families?

Dec 01, 2014 10:28AM ● Published by Jack Etzel

What gift can you give and receive at the same time? The answer is to become a parent of a child who needs you. Adoption Connection PA is a state-licensed, full-service adoption agency and nonprofit Christian charitable organization headquartered in Beaver that serves southwestern Pennsylvania and the tri-state area. Executive Director Robin Thompson, who has more than 26 years of experience in the field, talked with us about the importance of providing foster and permanent homes for kids. She and her husband are the parents of five boys and have cared for 18 foster children.

NHMM: First off, how many infants or children are available for adoption in this area? 
Robin Thompson: There is very little dependable data, but in recent years in Pennsylvania, the number of adoptable children is declining. However, it’s becoming more widely accepted for parents who want a child to turn to foster care, so foster care is increasing. At least part of this rise, sadly, is because of the increase of birth parents who are struggling with some type of addiction or mental health issues which, in turn, are not allowing them to parent their children safely.

NHMM: How does a child end up in foster care or eligible for adoption?
Robin Thompson:  At a given point, the courts can stipulate that the birth parent must complete a family service plan containing specific goals that must be met in order for the parent and child to be reunified. After about a year, if the family has not complied with the court order, the judge will revisit the situation and might decide to change the objective from the goal being reunification to the goal of adoption. Months later, the judge might decide to terminate parental rights. So, there are some timeframes for these children to be reunified, and at the same time, not to be in foster care forever. This is not an unusual road to travel for many children who are in the foster care system. Of course, adoption and foster care are not mutually exclusive. Depending on court decisions, we help children and families navigate this confusing and emotional experience from placement to the permanency of adoption.  

NHMM:  Outside of court-ordered issues, how do you find pregnant women who want to give their newborns up for adoption?
Robin Thompson:  Usually they find us. We advertise, and many find us on the Internet.  We counsel them and explain all of their options, and they help us create a plan. The birth mother gets to choose the family that the child will be getting. She has all of the say-so right up to the final adoption. 

NHMM:  What’s the age range of these children? 
Robin Thompson: A foster child can range in age from an infant to age 21. There are thousands of children who are in need of families who can and will unconditionally commit to them. Our foster care division, Family Connections, provides the same support, guidance and direct services to families and children as those who are engaged in adoption.

NHMM:  How has adoption changed over the years?
Robin Thompson:  In the 21st century, parents placing their children up for adoption vary from previous generations. It’s not primarily teenagers anymore. Only about one-fourth of them are teens. New figures show that most are young women in their 20s who have graduated from high school. Furthermore, most choosing adoption do not want complete secrecy like earlier generations; they express more of a desire for ongoing information and contact.

NHMM: What does an adoption cost? 
Robin Thompson: There are enough variables that it’s hard to say, but a private domestic adoption is approximately $15,000. That might sound like a lot, but it’s paid in increments. Our goal is to provide the best adoption services at affordable prices. As a licensed foster care agency, we do foster care placement in addition to adoptions, which is free.

NHMM: Doesn’t adoption necessitate dealing with a lot of legalities and jumping through a lot of hoops?  
Robin Thompson: Yes, it really is quite a process. We also know it’s an emotional journey. We are here to educate parents regarding options, processes and legal issues as we move along. There is state mandate called Home Study which we must administer that can take up to six months. Home Study includes documenting prospective parents’ lives, explaining why they are choosing to adopt and why they will be great parents for the child. It requires passing FBI clearances. Parents go through home visits that include matters ranging from safety concerns to in-depth interviews. But we are with them all the way. We administer everything, support them and provide professional guidance to see that everything is understood and completed. 

NHMM: That’s still tough scrutiny for anyone. You pass or you fail, right?
Robin Thompson: Not really. In the end, everyone passes, and that can be expected because families coming in here are all of good character. It’s a special person who comes through our door and adopts.  Some are unable to have children; others have a child but are unable to have more. 

NHMM: Following the Home Study, how long does it take until everything is finalized?
Robin Thompson: It varies, but we find that the average wait after that is about two years. However, many of our families are matched far earlier than that. Each adoption is different.  

NHMM: So basically, you’re a contracting company in the business of building families. 
Robin Thompson: That’s exactly right.

For more information on Adoption Connection PA, visit www.AdoptionConnectionPA.org or call 724-371-0671.

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