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By Leslie Boyd • March 24, 2009, ASHEVILLE – Like most 13-year-olds, Tiffany hasn't decided what she wants to do with her life, but she has narrowed her two top choices to cosmetologist or professional skateboarder.

But more than anything else, Tiffany wants to be adopted.

With the economic downturn, some agencies say the number of people willing to adopt or foster a child has dropped.

“It's another mouth to feed at a time a family might be worried about the future,” said Carrie Lauderbach of Professional Parenting, an Asheville foster care and adoption agency.

Finding homes for older children is particularly difficult.

As with many older children in foster care, Tiffany's case is complicated by the fact that she has three siblings who already have been adopted by other families and she still loves them and her birth parents. (The Citizen-Times does not publish the last names of children in foster care.)

Older children usually have a more difficult time finding adoptive families because so many couples want an infant. Older children also come with emotional issues and, in many cases, memories of their birth families.

Any family that decides to adopt Tiffany will have to understand that they are part of her larger family, said Bonnie Jedkins of Professional Parenting, the agency working with Tiffany.

“I just want somebody who will love me and accept me as their own,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany talks about the pranks she and her siblings pulled when they were together. She remains in touch with them — another thing a new family would have to understand.

“She still loves her family,” Jedkins said. “In the past, children who were adopted were cut off from their families. That was harder on older children.”

Another drawback, especially now, is that older children cost more.

The state does pay foster parents — $475 a month for children up to age 5, $581 for children 6-12 and $634 a month for ages 13-17 — but the payments rarely cover the full cost of caring for a child.

“You certainly don't make money doing it, but we try to keep the rate reasonable to the point where you don't lose money doing it,” said Kevin Kelley, assistant section chief for the NC Division of Child Welfare in Raleigh.

Kelly said the state doesn't have any hard evidence that it's more difficult to recruit foster and adoptive parents when the economy is bad, but Jedkins said people are more reluctant to commit to taking a child when they're worried about whether they'll have a job.

Becky Kessel, social work program administrator at the Buncombe County Department of Social Services, said foster-parent licensing classes still are filled, but not everyone in the classes goes on to become a foster or adoptive parent.

“We've been fortunate so far, but there's no telling what will happen if the economy keeps going down,” Kessel said.

Original article, Ashville Citizen Times retrieved on March 27, 2009

Mar 27, 2009 By FC Steve


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