The number of foster kids for adoption in Arkansas has reached 349 due to the pandemic barriers, prompting the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to launch a three-month campaign, dubbed "Everyday Counts," which aims to find forever families for these children by November 2021.
Established in partnership with Project Zero, a 15-year-old adoption coalition, "Everyday Counts" has nearly 160 kids waiting for the completion of their adoption process in court with their new families. The DCFS is hopeful that more residents will consider becoming an adoptive family for older children and teens.
The agency has been hitting the ground running to match kids with their new parents. In a statement, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson acknowledged that the DCFS has been making up for lost time when the courts had to shut down and then shift to virtual operations due to the lockdowns.
"[DCFS and Project Zero] need families that are willing to adopt children who through no fault of their own don't have a permanent home," the governor said.
How 'Everyday Counts' Work
The governor also acknowledged the contribution of Christie Erwin from Project Zero, as she works hard to make Arkansas the first state without any kids waiting in foster care.
Under this initiative, the legal fees for the adoption process will be absorbed by the state so that new parents can focus on preparing to welcome their child. To encourage more families to consider adoption, Erwin's team has also been conducting awareness campaigns and sharing stories via the Arkansas Heart Gallery featuring the kids who are now happily adjusted in their new homes.
Arkansas does not require adoptive parents to be married, but they must be of legal age with healthy and safe home life. The potential new moms or dads will also need to pass a background and medical check. They will have to sufficiently meet the resources needed by the child without any government financial assistance.
Children in foster care have individual emotional requirements; hence it's advisable not to fast-track the process. The children and the prospective adoptive parent should be given enough time to bond with each other.
COVID-19 Relief for Foster Care Kids
Meanwhile, the state's Department of Human Services is giving COVID-19 relief for young adults who have been in foster care. Under the Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act, individuals between the ages of 16 to 26 may claim a one-time $750 payment from the state. At least 4,000 young people are eligible to receive the COVID-19 relief.
Mikayla, who has been in the foster care system since she was 13, said that she's saving the relief for the rainy days as an emergency fund. Now in college at the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith, Mikayla noted that the benefit from the government would help kids like her in multiple ways.
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