CULLMAN, Ala. – The Alabama Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (AFAPA) worked to recruit members last month in recognition of National Child Adoption Month. According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR), there are over 220 children available for adoption and over 6,000 in foster care in Alabama.
AFAPA provides training, information and donations for future and current parents. It supports adoptive, foster and kin parents.
AFAPA President and Cullman resident William “Buddy” Hooper spoke to The Tribune to challenge some misconceptions surrounding adoption and foster care.
Hooper has been involved in helping parents and children through AFAPA for 23 years. He joined the Board in 1999 and was elected President in 2005. He has six children, two of whom he adopted. He and his wife Martha were foster parents for 11 years until their first adoption in 2000.
Hooper said, “You almost have to talk to people one-by-one to explain things to them, because the number one reason I hear for not promoting is ‘I’d get too clingy,’ and I have to tell them, ‘Well , that’s what we want you to do. We want you to take in these children, love them and treat them like your own.” At the same time, you must support family reunification wherever possible. That’s the hard part for some foster parents.”
Of the 6,000 children in foster care, some only need a foster family for a few days. Others need foster care until they are reunited with their biological families or until a plan for their adoption is made. Many are placed in foster care because of parental neglect or abuse.
Hooper said most of the teens are in foster care and are now being put up for adoption. “The teenagers need families just as much as anyone else, in some cases even more. There seems to be a lot of people who are willing to take on smaller children, toddlers and up, but once they are 9 years old, fewer people are willing to take on 9 and older than those who are willing to take on smaller children.”
Some children remain in foster care until they are 18 or 19 years old.
He said that a big misconception about adoption is the cost. “A foster adoption costs very little.” He said parents would have to pay for a birth certificate and sometimes part of the attorney’s fee, but “DHR pays the attorney’s fees in most cases where they are deemed to be in need and any child who is 5 years old or older is adopted by DHR are considered special needs. Sibling groups of two or more are considered special needs. There is practically nothing to adopt about DHR.”
When adopting from the DHR, the department does not charge for adoption home study (which includes 30 hours of training) or child placement. Expenditure is generally limited to the cost of checking criminal records and conducting physical examinations of all family members living in the household.
“Unless you can sit down with people and talk to them one by one, it’s hard for them to have that view, it’s almost like they can’t believe it,” Hooper said.
He recommends adoption or fostering to anyone who is able. “Since that adoption 21 years ago, we have had some beautiful grandchildren. I don’t know what our life would be like without her.”
Hooper is 73 years old and one of his adopted children is 13 years old. “I can take her to ball games and practice softball with her. God has blessed me with health to be able to do this. There are so many blessings in nursing. That’s one thing I would say to anyone. You will receive more blessings than you can imagine.”
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