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BATON ROUGE, LA - The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services will mark National Adoption Month today (Thursday, November 3) with its first in-person Adoption Celebration since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrating the 538 families who adopted 700 children and youth from foster care during the past year.
The state's 24th Annual Adoption Celebration will be held at the Governor's Mansion this afternoon.
"We are thrilled to welcome Louisiana's adoptive families back to the Mansion this year," said First Lady Donna Edwards. "We're excited to celebrate with them and grateful that so many children are now in loving, supportive and permanent homes. Giving a child a safe and nurturing environment in which to grow is one of the most important things they need to be successful in life. I'm very proud of the work by DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters and her team and all of the great partners who have helped bring these families together."
"We are so grateful to be together in person once again with the families who have opened their hearts and homes to our children and youth," said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. "Our goal for every child who comes into foster care is a safe, stable and loving home, whether through adoption or reunification with their family, and I am proud of our staff for helping so many children to reach that place in their journey this year."
Among the state's 700 adoptions from foster care in Federal Fiscal Year 2022 were three young adult adoptions from the Extended Foster Care program, which serves young adults, ages 18-21. Another 55 adoptions - or 8% of all adoptions this year - were of youth aged 13-17.
Altogether, 269 siblings were adopted together by 122 families, including 99 families who adopted 2 siblings, 21 families who adopted 3 siblings, and 2 families who each adopted 4 siblings this year.
|# CHILDREN Each Family Adopted||TOTAL # FAMILIES Adopting That Number of Children||# FAMILIES Adopting That Number of Siblings|
Fifteen of this year's adoptions were completed with the help of Wendy's Wonderful Kids recruiters, specialized adoption workers assigned to take on some of the most challenging and complex cases, through a partnership with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Louisiana has 9 Wendy's Wonderful Kids recruiters, including one who works within the Extended Foster Care program.
This year's Adoption Award winners, announced during Thursday afternoon's celebration, are:
DCFS Adoptive Family of the Year: Joshua and Monique Jones, Lake Charles Region
Joshua and Monique Jones, of Allen Parish, have been certified foster parents since 2015, when they were in their mid-twenties, and have become not only faithful and dedicated foster/adoptive parents, but also strong advocates for foster children with special needs. The Joneses were so excited to become foster parents and wanted to open their home to as many children in foster care as possible. They were initially open to fostering older children, but when they accepted the placement of twin babies with multiple complex developmental and other special needs, they realized their true calling. The twins' diagnoses and complex care requirements meant changing all aspects of the Joneses' lives, including ensuring an allergen-free home environment and alerting visitors of required health precautions to protect the medically fragile children, purchasing a larger vehicle to accommodate the twins' medical equipment, homeschooling to avoid exposure to health-compromising situations, and relying on support from family and friends for assistance and respite when needed. The Joneses not only fostered the twins but, in 2017, adopted them, and the children are thriving. In 2020, the Jones family accepted another foster placement - another baby with developmental and special needs - and adopted that child as well this past year.
Advocate of the Year: Susan East Nelson
Susan East Nelson is the Executive Director of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, a statewide organization connecting child-serving organizations together to advocate for better outcomes for children. Since she joined the Partnership in 2017, she has spent thousands of hours advocating for Louisiana's children from the time before they are born until they age out of the foster care system. Through the Partnership, Nelson has advocated for continued funding to protect children, support for struggling families, and adequate funding for the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act, through which the Department is implementing prevention services for children and families. Recently, the Partnership led a coalition of organizations responsible for the first state investment in early childhood mental health in over a decade with the goal of creating resilient families who avoid interaction with the child welfare system. Nelson also serves as the current chair of the Louisiana Children's Cabinet Advisory Board and has been a member of a number of taskforce groups on issues including raising the age of foster care, family economic stability, perinatal health, children's health, and protecting children from online predators. She has dedicated the last ten years of her 30-year government advocacy career to the issues impacting children in Louisiana.
Community Partner of the Year: Connect1Child (Connect 1:27), Shreveport Region
Connect1Child, also known as Connect 1:27, is the off-campus foster care and adoption ministry of the Louisiana Baptist Children's Home. Connect 1:27 includes a team of social workers trained in trauma-informed care who work closely with DCFS and other partners to understand foster care needs and identify ways the faith-based community can help. Through this work, they became aware of the significant need for pre- and post-adoption support services for children and families. The ministry is currently working towards offering more supportive services to adoptive families during the pre-finalization period and beyond. They have extended their support services to families recruited for fostering to include support and ongoing contact after their adoption has been finalized, even if the home is closed with DCFS. They also have initiated efforts to increase their knowledge of adoption issues and connect with other agencies who have been successful in the area of adoption support. In early 2021, three members of the Connect 1:27 team enrolled in a year-long Training for Adoption Competency program, developed by the Center for Adoption Support and Education to educate mental health professionals on the unique circumstances surrounding adoption and equip them with the tools needed for effective support and intervention. In the summer of 2021, the Connect 1:27 team connected with Lifeline Children's Services, a faith-based foster care and adoption agency in Birmingham, Alabama, who have a wealth of expertise in adoption preparation and support, to better understand the services they offer and determine whether similar services could be offered in Louisiana. They also hope, through their involvement, to encourage other community partners and faith-based organizations to get involved to help families adopt.
Adoption Worker of the Year: Trina Favorite, Thibodaux Region
Trina Favorite has been with DCFS for a total of 23 years, working in Child Protective Services and Foster Care before joining the Adoptions Unit in 2008. She has finalized hundreds of adoptions throughout her tenure, including 33 adoptions this past year. Trina has an abundance of experience, superior work ethic, and takes pride in training new employees and offering wisdom. She is driven to ensure that all children on her caseload achieve permanency, and she encourages foster/adoptive parents to continue being a beacon of hope for children by providing them with a safe, stable and permanent home.
Adoption Region of the Year: Thibodaux Region
The Thibodaux Region had the highest average of finalized adoptions per adoption worker, with 94 adoptions finalized and 4 adoption workers.
For more information about adoption from foster care, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/adopt.