CULLMAN, Ala. – The Alabama Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (AFAPA) has been working to gain members this past 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 to prospective and current parents. It supports adoptive, foster and kinship parents.
AFAPA President and Cullman resident William “Buddy” Hooper spoke with The Tribune to challenge some misconceptions surrounding adoption and foster care.
Hooper has been involved in assisting 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 he adopted. He and wife Martha were foster parents for 11 years until their first adoption in 2000.
Hooper said, “You almost have to talk to people one on one to explain things to them because the biggest reason that I hear for not fostering is ‘I would get too attached,’ and I have to tell them, ‘Well that’s what we want you to do. We want you to take these kids in, love them and treat them just like your own.’ At the same time, you have to work for family reunification if possible. That’s the hard part for some foster parents.”
Out of the 6,000 children in foster care, some only need foster care for a matter of days. Others need foster care until they are reunited with their biological family, or a plan is made for them to be adopted. Many are placed in foster care due to parent neglect or abuse.
Hooper said mostly teenagers are in foster care and up for adoption now. “The teenagers need families just the same as anybody else, more so, in some cases. There seems to be a lot of people willing to take smaller children, infants on up, but once they get even 9 years old-the people who are willing to take in 9 years old or older, are fewer than the ones willing to take smaller children.”
Some children remain in foster care until they age out at 18 or 19.
He said that a big misconception around adoption is the expense. “It costs very little to adopt through foster care.” He said parents need to pay for a birth certificate and sometimes a part of the attorney fee but, “DHR pays for the attorney fees in most cases, if they’re considered special needs, and any child adopted through DHR 5 years or older is considered special needs. Sibling groups of two of more are considered special needs. It’s practically nothing to adopt through DHR.”
When adopting from DHR, the department charges no fees for the adoption home study (which includes 30 hours of training) or for the placement of children. Expenses are generally limited to the costs of criminal history record checks and obtaining physical examinations of all household family members.
“Unless you can sit people down and talk to them one on one, it’s hard for them to have that view of it, its almost like they can’t believe it,” said Hooper.
He fully recommends adoption or fostering to any who are capable. “From that adoption we did 21 years ago, we have some beautiful grandchildren. I don’t know what our life would be without them.”
Hooper is 73 years old and one of his adopted children is 13 years old. “I get to take her to ballgames and practice softball with her. God has blessed me with health to be able to do that. There are so many blessings in fostering. That’s one thing that I would say to anyone. You’ll receive more blessings than you can imagine.”
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