By JIM KRAJEWSKI
Of the 6,100 Iowa children in foster homes, 756 are eligible for adoption. That was the message Corinne Sills, post adoption support specialist with Iowa KidsNet got out at a planned candlelight vigil at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday.
Sills, a foster parent for 11 years who housed 33 kids and adopted a child, has been a part of 12 vigils across the state to raise awareness of National Adoption Month. Sills said those hundreds of kids deserve a supportive and caring adult in their lives.
"It's planting seeds in children's hearts and providing comforts they might have not received in their biological home for whatever reason, abuse, drugs or neglect. I think it's really important that those kids have someone to call mom and dad," Sills said.
Families willing to foster must take a Partnering for Safety and Permanence-Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting, or PS-MAPP, class, do training, learn about children coming into one's home, get information on laws regarding foster parenting and have background and home checks. Sills said the process takes about six months from initial inquiry to becoming a licensed foster parent.
In all cases, Sills said the main goal is to get foster children back to their biological families. If foster children's biological parents' parental rights are terminated, the child becomes eligible for adoption. In such a case, a foster family would be one of the first in line for consideration for adoption.
Sills said making a parental connection with such a child is very worthwhile. Her son, when he was two years old, saw her as he died momentarily on an operating table. He was severely abused as an infant. When he walked into Sills' home, he ran with his arms open and hugged her, while calling her mom.
"That's worth much more than anything, and he's 14 now, and we have that connection. It's really important," Sills said.
No candles were lighted at the vigil, as no supporters showed up at the courthouse to participate in the event. However, Sills said it was worth coming out to try and find people interested in foster and adoptive parenting to help a child shine.
"These kids need somebody to tuck them in at night, somebody who is going to be there for them at Christmas time, birthdays, answering important life questions, things like that," Sills said.
Iowa has a large need for more families to care for sibling groups, teenagers and children with special needs, according to Iowa KidsNet. There is also a need for African American, Latino and Native American foster and adoptive families. That's because, according to Sills, it's important for children to recognize and be a part of their heritage.
For more information, visit iowakidsnet.com or call 1 (800) 243-0756.