By: Joshua Bowling
November is National Adoption Awareness Month, bringing the service even further into the mainstream.
Many people have turned to adoption when conception is not possible, or when they want to help children caught in the child welfare system.
Adoptive parent and Program Coordinator for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Shari Hopkins, said she and her husband first considered adoption when they were unable to conceive.
Private adoption proved too expensive for the Hopkins family, so they went through the child welfare system, first fostering a child, and then adopting her.
“When I first considered adopting, I did so because of selfish reasons,” Hopkins said. “But after gaining more information about children who are in foster care, my heart began to change and I realized how special adoption really is …”
Though parents may use the child welfare system as a means of adoption, there is no guarantee they will have the opportunity to adopt their foster child. The state does everything in its power to return the child to his or her birth parents, and only uses adoption as a last resort.
Hopkins said they adopted their daughter, Heather, when she was 19 months old, though they had her as a foster child since she was 3 days old.
For nearly a year after that, the child welfare system worked with Heather’s birth parents to help them make better decisions and behavioral choices.
The state works with the child’s birth parents in an effort to reverse what led to the child’s placement in foster care.
“Although we went on to foster 10 more children over a seven-year time period, we were never able to adopt another one of our foster children because they were either reunified with their birth parents or placed with another family member,” Hopkins said.
Private adoption agencies provide homes for many children, but the child welfare system is ripe with opportunity as well.
“In Maricopa County there are 12,832 children in foster care,” Hopkins said. “Many of those children will never be returned to their parents, and may very well need a future adoptive home.”
While adoption is promising for many, starting the process can be overwhelming.
“Having good information, having a support system and being able to assess yourself and your family prior to saying ‘yes, I will adopt,’ is very important,” Hopkins said.
Adoption has presented itself as an opportunity for college-age residents as well. Nearly 25 percent of college students have dependent children, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, making adoption relevant to the college populace.
MCC student, Ainsley Hall, said she sees adoption as a positive thing, and is in favor of it becoming more mainstream for families.
“If I can’t have kids, I would consider it,” Hall said.
Those interested in adoption can visit the Arizona Department of Economic Service’s website, which deals with adoption, at www.azdes.gov/dcyf/adoption/.