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|Raffeal Cooper holds his daughter Ashlyn (right) and adopted
son, Roiman, at the Governor's Mansion Friday. Cooper and
his wife, Alfreda, also adopted Roiman's siblings, Latrelle and
"This year's adoption celebration is especially significant since the 640 children adopted this year represent a record for DCFS - the most adoptive placements of children in foster care during any year in our agency's history," said DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson. "So, during this month we will take extra time to honor Louisiana's families who truly make a difference by opening their homes and hearts to some of the state's most vulnerable children."
Louisiana families and their newly adopted children were guests of honor at the afternoon celebration which featured children's entertainment, face painting and balloon animals by "Bubbles the Clown." The St. Michael the Archangel High School Jazz Band also performed.
Following remarks by Gerald P. Mallon, Ph.D., executive director of the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning, DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson presented the agency's Community Support and Adoption Advocate awards.
|Reyounte James, of New Orleans, jumps
off the steps at the Governor's Mansion
while his brother Anthony Scott looks on.
Single parent David Kirk of Alexandria received an Adoption Advocate Award. David has fostered six children and adopted three children, all with special needs. In presenting the award, Johnson said that David goes above and beyond being an adoptive parent to his three boys; he advocates for them and other children with special needs in the school system, participates on the foster and adoptive parent training panel and promotes adoption by sharing his adoption story with the community.
Raymon and Joyce Crooks, also of Alexandria, were honored with an Adoption Advocate Award as well. Foster and adoptive parents for the last 12 years, Raymon and Joyce have opened their home to 22 foster children. They are adoptive parents to five special needs and medically fragile children and currently are in the process of adopting a sixth child. According to Johnson, the Crooks work tirelessly as adoption advocates in recruiting, training, mentoring and supporting new adoptive families. In fact, the Crooks have even inspired their own adult daughter to become a foster and adoptive parent herself.
Currently, there are 4,350 children in foster care. Of these, 651 children have been legally freed for adoption and are waiting to be connected with adoptive families. On average, 56 foster children become available for adoption each month.
One goal of Adoption Awareness Month is recruiting new foster and adoptive parents.
|Samuel Dante Cortes (left) plays with his brother Don
Raymond Cortes at the Governor's Mansion Friday. The
brothers were adopted by the Cortes family of Marrero.
DCFS participates in year-round recruiting efforts for foster and adoptive parents by holding orientation meetings each month across the state. For additional information on when orientations are scheduled, as well as information on qualifications, the certification process and life as a foster family and care for a child or children temporarily, visit www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/fostercare .
In addition, DCFS's online adoption profiles initiative links foster children who are available to be adopted with families. Each month, DCFS highlights foster children who are available for adoption on its website, www.dcfs.louisiana.gov. Since the site launched in February 2009, 30 of the 88 children profiled, including eight sibling groups, have been paired with adoptive families or have adoptions in progress.
Those efforts resulted in DCFS recently being awarded more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for exceeding past years' efforts to move the state's foster children into permanent adoptive homes.
(Editors: Click on the photos for large versions that can be used in your publications. Please credit the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Serivces.)