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November 29, 2012

Adoption Month brings awareness of children in need of homes

By Michelle Miller
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Six months ago, a Milford couple adopted two 2½-year-olds from China — a girl and a boy who were born only 11 days apart in age. 

Year’s ago, Rico and Karen Agostino had a hard time conceiving. According to Karen, the couple went through some adoption classes and fell in love with the idea. 

“We were so close and about there, picking out which country to adopt from, and the next thing we knew I was pregnant. That kind of put it on the back shelf.”

Since initially thinking about adoption, the Agostinos have had two children biologically. They had a girl, Grace, who is 9 years old, and a boy, Ben, who is 7 years old. However, Karen said, the desire to adopt never went away.

“We are kind of older. We are two people in our 40s adopting two toddlers, but it just felt like our family was not complete. We still felt like we needed to do this,” she said, “and now it feels complete.”

Karen said there are numerous children like their adopted toddlers, Maya and Hu, who need homes.

“There are just so many kids in this world, and I cannot imagine having more than two biologically. I always wanted a big family, it just did not seem right not to adopt with all the kids that need homes.”

Both kids have special needs, but are minor, according to Karen. Maya has Erb’s palsy, a paralysis of the arm caused by injury to the upper group of the arm’s main nerves. Hu has had a cleft lip and palate repair. 

“Both are actually doing great, but there are so many over there with special needs because they are abandoned because parents don’t have the resources, the money to repair these physical disabilities,” Karen said.

The reason why the Agostinos decided to adopt from China, according to Karen, is because there is a large network of families that are in the area. She said there are local families that have adopted children from China and she feels that will provide friends for her children. 

“They can relate to the culture,” she said.

Milford had a Chinese Mandarin language and culture program for a couple of years. However, Karen said, the instructor of the language classes moved and classes have been stopped.

“We would love to find someone else to teach the classes,” she said.

Karen said many parents and those interested in the culture still get together for various activities such as the Autumn Moon Festival and the Chinese New Year.

Karen said she is so happy with the decision to adopt.

“It takes some adjusting, but they are doing wonderfully now,” Karen said.

 The Agostinos adopted in May. November is recognized as National Adoption Month. The Milford couple chose to adopt through an agency, but there are several options for those looking to adopt.

According to Eve Bouboulis, deputy commissioner of the Otsego County Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services website, http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/, provides many resources.

Adoption.com is also committed to helping as many children as possible find loving, permanent homes. According to its website, while observing Adoption Awareness Month all adoption-related issues are important, the particular focus of the month is the adoption of children in foster care.

The website says the first major effort to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in the foster care system occurred in Massachusetts. In 1976, then-Gov. Mike Dukakis proclaimed Adoption Week and the idea grew in popularity and spread throughout the nation. President Gerald Ford made the first National Adoption Week proclamation, and in 1990, the week was expanded to a month because of the number of states participating and the growing number of events.

During November, states, communities, public and private organizations, businesses, families and individuals celebrate as a positive way to build families. Across the nation, activities and observances such as recognition dinners, public awareness and recruitment campaigns spotlight the needs of children who need permanent families. It included National Adoption Day, traditionally a Saturday, which is observed in courthouses across the nation as thousands of adoptions are finalized simultaneously.

Bouboulis said the Otsego County Department of Social Services is promoting adopting through its foster care program by placing ads in a local publication and on signs on the Oneonta Public Transit Systems buses that read, “Open your heart and home to children in need.”

An appreciation dinner was held Nov. 16 at the Brooks’ House of Barbeque for staff. An event was also held for foster and adopted parents to meet with resource providers. It was a time for children who have been in the foster care system to speak, and have experienced adoptive or foster parents share their experiences, according to Bouboulis.

Bouboulis said there is a certification process that Social Services uses for those wanting to become foster parents. It follows the state model — a model approach to partnership and parenting (MAP), she said. 

According to Bouboulis, the program lasts 10 weeks and typically begins in the fall and spring. People interested in learning more can contact the Social Services office at 547- 4355.

Bouboulis said there are about 54 children in the foster care program, but she is happy to say there are no children waiting for pre-adoptive homes. 

“We are in a great place right now, which is not always the case,” she said.

Adopting through foster care can be more difficult and challenging than traditional options, according to Bouboulis. She said a lot of the children are teenagers and are not always in the program because of abuse or neglect. Some are juvenile delinquents, she added.

“Our first effort is to reunify children with their home; where they came from. We want to get them back to their parents or caregivers,” Bouboulis said.

When looking for permanent guardians for children, Bouboulis said it is all about finding a good match, figuring out who the prospective adoptive parents are and if they want what will work best for each individual child. It is also important to make sure the child is safe, she said.

The New York State Council on Children and Families announced the new report that highlights the status of the state’s children and families with a county-by-county view. According to the Touchstone/Kids Count Data Book 2012, 2.0 per 1,000 children 18 and younger have been admitted into foster care in Otsego County.