KMBZ Cover Story: Never too late to adopt older children

April 06, 2017 - 4:58 am
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The KMBZ Cover Story for Thursday is "Never Too Late," a look at adoption and foster care.

-- Saving Kids from Abuse --

The Salvation Army Children's Shelter is a temporary place for kids who are pulled out of abusive or neglectful situations. For many it can eventually lead to foster care or adoption. 

The shelter is much like any home. It has a kitchen, a place to gather and watch TV, and bedrooms for kids to call their own. The shelter is set up that way for a reason. 

"The goal is to teach kids to how to live safely in a family environment," said Erin Eaton, shelter director. "Everything we do is centered around that philosophy."

About half the kids staying at the shelter are older and sometimes have siblings there, too. The length of stay can range from two to three weeks. Over the past 36 years, the Salvation Army has helped 8,900 children. 

-- Connecting Children with Families --

In each state there is an organization that helps connect kids with adoptive families.  In Kansas the organization is the Kansas Children's Service League.

Melinda Kline calls herself the "joyologist" as she helps kids over the age of 6 can find a "no-matter-what family."  Kline says families are generally looking for younger kids, so it can be hard for older children. Teenagers, especially, are not only dealing with the emotional upheaval of that age...but they're also fighting some kind of trauma with very little stability.

"I usually use the example of a piece of Scotch tape," Kline said. "If you really want Scotch tape to work you just stick it one time and leave it there."

There are hundreds of children on the Children's Service League website. Many older teens or sibling groups want to stay together. 

-- Adoption Stories --

Kansas City couple Julie and Mark Clobes have adopted four children over the years. They also have one biological child. Hear their stories here and here.

Mary and Rich Wood of Lee's Summit turned to adoption when they learned they couldn't conceive. They adopted four children in one year. Then, Mary learned she was pregnant. Hear the Woods' story here and here.

-- Adopting Older Children --

Adoption can be difficult for kids who are in foster care. 

Each year 20,000 young adults will age out of the foster care system. These children are at an increased risk of homelessness and unemployment. 

Couples looking to adopt tend to aim for a younger child, said Jenny Kutz, Director of Communications at KVC, a non-profit organization that provides foster care services.

"If someone is wanting to grow their family through adoption but they're really focused on having an infant or a toddler, it's difficult, because that's a popular request," Kutz said. "A lot of people think, I want to be a parent -- I want to start with a baby."

But there is hope.  Kutz says older kids that are adopted still provide the family with plenty of great memories. 

"You'll still be a parent and you'll still get the joy of so many first in their lives with you," Kutz said. "It's still just as special and will just make an incredible lifelong difference in their life."

Each year KVC provides forever homes to more than 400 children. 

-- CASA Advocates --

With so many children in the foster care system, there is a desperate need for more CASA advocates. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. 

Amy Boydston is Executive Director of CASA of Johnson & Wyandotte Counties. She says CASA advocates are matched with a child or sibling group. They meet regularly with the child and all the adults around them, including teachers, doctors, social workers and foster parents.

"They will really get a full picture of what that child's needs are, what services they require, what the child's hopes and desires are," Boydston said.

Right now there are 160 children in Wyandotte and Johnson Counties who are waiting for a person to serve as their champion in the court system. 

Advocates receive at least 30 hours of training before they're matched with a child. The program requires about 10 hours of month of each advocate.

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