Alec wants to travel the world. Devon is good at memory games. Heaven watches “Degrassi” and likes fashion. These are just three profiles out of more than 60 featured on the Summit County Children Services website.
Throughout the month of November, cutout figures, symbolizing all of the waiting children in these profiles, are visible on the front lawn of the agency’s building located on Arlington Street. November is National Adoption Awareness Month and the agency hosted an event earlier in the month to celebrate.
The cutouts were created by the Construction Trades Program students at Ellet High School and hand-painted by agency staff and volunteers. The event featured Magistrate Diane Stevenson from Summit County Probate Court and two couples who recently adopted, Doug and Carol Hausknecht and Jerry and Pam Kusar. At the event, the two families “ceremonially” removed two cutouts to signify the two children who were adopted.
“It’s a really great chance for our staff to hear from the families since many of them don’t get to see the parents or hear from them after the process has taken place,” said Sandy DeLuca, home finding recruiter at the agency.
What is unique about the agency is that they no longer do adoption-only home studies, unless for a child-specific adoption. Families who are interested in adoption complete the training, paperwork and home study processes so they can become licensed for both foster care and adoption.
There is a multi-step process, which involves many hours of interviewing, home studies and paperwork.
Case workers try to find the best fit for each child and family and the agency provides maximum support even after the child is adopted or placed in a foster home.
Parents — whether single, married, widowed, or divorced — learn everything they need to know for the child or children such as stress and coping mechanisms. The first meeting with both the family and child is when the child goes home.
“The number one goal we work towards, always, is to try to reunite the children with their birth family,” DeLuca said. “If it’s not possible or in their best interest, then we try to find a permanent home.”
She sad the agency tries to place the child with a relative first. However, if there are no family members, the maximum length of time for the birth parents to reclaim the child is 24 months. After this period, Summit County Children Services petition for permanent custody. The birth family still can overturn this, but rarely does it occur.
Summit County Children Services has more than 165 children under their custody. Of those children mentioned, 70 to 75 have no identified plan. Ninety percent are 12 years old or older, and there is a critical need for adoptive parents for teens.
The profiles mentioned earlier all have at least a paragraph giving honest depictions of the children and teens and what they will need from their potential adoptive parents. It’s a traumatic experience being placed and moved around. The agency wants to move the children and teens as little as possible and tries to provide support to make the transition smooth.
This even means providing support in the smallest of ways.
“We had a teen who was on his own who had been in the system calling to request assistance getting a pair of sneakers,” DeLuca said. “Even something as small as that can make a difference in living.”
For more information about the adoption and foster care process visit, www.summitkids.org.