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Balloon artists, face painters, children's activities and the St. Michael the Archangel High School Jazz band entertained families who adopted foster children last fiscal year.
One New Orleans area family adopted five daughters this year, including three teenagers. Six families adopted sibling groups of three. One of those sibling groups includes a child with a serious medical condition. An additional 37 families adopted sibling groups of two children.
"Ensuring that Louisiana's children have a safe permanent loving home, whether biological or through adoption, is essential to the mission of DCFS," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "Our foster and adoptive parents provide children with stability and love at a time when they need it most."
Earlier this month, Governor Bobby Jindal issued a proclamation announcing November as Adoption Awareness Month, nothing that "Louisiana's greatest strength is its families, with thousands formed by or touched by adoption" and that "Louisiana has benefited from the loving care and attention provided to children in adoptive families."
Carrie Boerio, Senior Director of Programs for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national nonprofit that promotes foster care adoption, spoke during the celebration about a new partnership with the state of Louisiana that allowed DCFS to hire staff members who exclusively work to pair hard to place children with potential adoptive families. The program began earlier this year.
The department presented its Media Advocate, Individual Adoption Advocate and Community Advocate awards at the reception.
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church was presented with the Community Advocate Award for their program "I AM" - Increasing Adoptive Measures. The program aims to increase public awareness of the need of foster and adoptive families. Each week, children legally freed for adoption are featured in the church's bulletin. Immaculate Heart of Mary has hosted numerous events for recruitment efforts and even created a video about becoming a foster or adoptive parent. Father James stated that the work of "I AM" will continue as long as there are children in need.
Jackie Scott, the assistant to adoption attorney Terri Odom, received the Individual Adoption Advocate award. Scott's work behind the scenes ensured that the adoption process ran smoothly for many families in the Monroe region. Scott's commitment to Louisiana's children and families has helped DCFS staff ensure that petitions for adoptions were filed quickly and, in turn, has helped increase the number of adoptions in the area.
Britney Glaser of KPLC TV in Lake Charles was presented with the Media Advocate Award for her monthly news segment called "The New Family Tree." The segment, which began airing in June, features an adoptable child or sibling group in the Lake Charles region. Since Glaser's segment began airing, the number of individuals attending orientation meetings and enrolling in classes to become foster and adoptive parents has increased tremendously with attendees even citing the news segment as the reason they attended. "The New Family Tree" has been a call to action for many in the region and hopes that it continues.
"One of our goals during November is to recruit and raise awareness of the importance of foster and adoptive families," said Sonnier. "Our DCFS team genuinely believes every one of our children has hope to be adopted and a brighter future with the support of stable, loving families and our partners across the state."
DCFS participates in year-round recruiting efforts for foster and adoptive parents by holding orientation meetings each month across the state. For additional information on the schedule of orientations, as well as qualifications, the certification process on how to care for a child or children temporarily and life as a foster family, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/foster.
(Editors: Photos from the event are available at www.dcfs.la.gov/2014Adoption. Please credit the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.)