BATON ROUGE, La. (DCFS) - The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services held its 21st Annual Adoption Celebration at the Governor's Mansion on Thursday to celebrate the 893 children who found loving, permanent homes with 661 families during the 2019 federal fiscal year (FFY).
The number of adoptions finalized between Oct. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2019, is the state's second-highest number of adoptions from foster care in a single year, falling just behind the record set last year with 912 adoptions. The third-highest number of adoptions was in FFY 2017 when 771 children found permanency through adoption.
"It warms our hearts to know that almost 900 children will be spending Thanksgiving with permanent families. The fact that even more of them were teens and siblings gives us even more to celebrate. We're grateful we were able to help build new lives for so many children and young people in Louisiana," DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters said.
More Teens, Sibling Groups Find Permanent Homes
The Department's work to increase permanency for youth helped boost the number of adoptions of teens (ages 13-17) by 22%, rising from 68 in FFY 2018 to 83 in FFY 2019. Teens also made up a larger percentage of the total number of children adopted - 9% of the 893 adopted this year, compared to 7% of the 912 adopted last year.
Sibling adoptions also increased, with 179 of this year's 661 families (27%) adopting more than one child, including 164 families (24.8%) who adopted siblings. Last year, 143 of 631 families (22.7%) adopted siblings.
Twenty-five of this year's adoptions were completed by Wendy's Wonderful Kids recruiters, including 8 by Lafayette Region recruiter Patricia Hebert, whom the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption named one of its Recruiters of the Year. Wendy's recruiters take on some of the most challenging and complex cases - including teens, sibling groups and children with medical or special needs - to help more children and youth reach the permanency they deserve.
DCFS's partnership with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is one of several national partnerships that have helped strengthen the state's child welfare system and led to increased permanency for children and youth in foster care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cited those "extraordinary contributions" toward permanency in awarding Louisiana an Adoption Excellence Award for 2019.
The 21st Annual Adoption Celebration, hosted Thursday by First Lady Donna Edwards, brought the state's new adoptive families together for an afternoon of fun and special recognition and gave DCFS an opportunity to present awards to adoption advocates for their work over the past year.
"Our First Lady has been a tireless advocate for all children and, in particular, for those in foster care. The Louisiana Fosters initiative, which she launched in 2017, has galvanized support for foster families in every region, every corner of the state. She promotes Louisiana Fosters' partners and shares her dedication to foster children everywhere she goes. This is why we're proud to present her the 2019 Advocate of the Year award," Walters said.
The 2019 adoption awards are as follows:
•Advocate of the Year: First Lady Donna Edwards. In 2017, Edwards launched Louisiana Fosters, a statewide network of faith, nonprofit, business and service communities partnering with the state to bolster support for foster children and their caregivers. The network grew from a handful of partnering organizations to a legion of more than 50 groups, large and small, whose mission is to support "Louisiana's children, our children." In 2019, Edwards built upon Louisiana Fosters with her "One Church, One Family, One Child" initiative, a statewide call to the faith-based community to recruit and support foster families within their congregations to foster a child.
•Community Partner of the Year: Barksdale Air Force Base, Shreveport Region. Every year for the past 20 years, the men and women of Barksdale Air Force Base have held an annual Santas in Blue event, providing children in foster care with a Christmas party and gifts from Santa. For children age 12 and under, a party is held in the Bossier Civic Center, and for children age 13 and older, they hold a private party at the skating rink.
•Individual Partner of the Year: Danny Hebert, Lafayette Region. Danny Hebert, outreach minister for Riverside Church of Christ, has partnered with DCFS to support foster/adoptive families since the devastating floods of 2016. Without hesitation, Hebert and his church provided clothes, food, cleaning supplies, furniture, bedding, yard supplies and $500 Lowes gift cards to area families affected by the floods. Since then, Hebert and the church have hosted annual Christmas parties for relative caregivers and the children in their care, providing gifts, food and a visit with Santa for 100 children plus their families. This year, the church will host Adoption Celebration Day on Nov. 21, as well as providing 40 Thanksgiving baskets to the region's relative adoptive families. Hebert also encourages congregants to pursue certification as foster/adoptive parents.
•Region of the Year: Monroe Region. The Monroe Region's four adoptions workers finalized 135 adoptions during FFY 2019, for an average of 33.75 adoptions per worker - the highest average in the state.
•Worker of the Year: Lori Troyer, Covington Region. Troyer finalized 55 adoptions during FFY 2019, more than any other worker in the state.
•Adoption and Safe Families Act Award: Orleans Region. The federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 promotes timely permanency planning and placement for children in foster care. This new award is being given to the Orleans Region in recognition of their hard work in helping children reach permanency in an average of 22 months.
First Lady Donna Edwards served as speaker for the event, which also featured music from the Leroy Pero Ensemble, balloon artists and face painters, fairytale princesses and superheroes.
The event is one of many happening across the state throughout November, which Gov. John Bel Edwards proclaimed as Adoption Awareness Month in Louisiana. DCFS dedicates each November to honoring those who have made a difference in a child's life through adoption and raising awareness in an effort to provide homes for about 160 children who remain in need of a permanent, adoptive home.
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