County finding kids permanent homes
WILLMAR -- When Tracy and Dave Dykshoorn decided to become foster parents for children in Kandiyohi County, they had no idea they would be thrust into the worlds of private and public adoption programs and become parents to two children through two different services.
As they gave their testimonial to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners this week, the Pennock couple said the county's adoption program is far superior to private adoption agencies.
The Dykshoorns begged the commissioners to continue their support for the county program.
The applause the commissioners gave the couple for adopting a ward of the state, and the applause they gave Tina Mages who coordinates adoptions here, would seem to indicate that support will continue.
Kandiyohi County has embraced the state trend to find foster parents who are not only willing to provide temporary shelter, but also consider adopting those children if they are later removed from their birth parents' custody.
Called "concurrent" foster care, the program has reduced the number of children waiting to be adopted in Minnesota, Mages said. There are currently 391 wards of the state that are "legally free and waiting" to be adopted. That is about half of the number of children waiting to be adopted in Minnesota in previous years.
In Kandiyohi County there are 11 children needing to be adopted, but Mages said nine of those kids are already in pre-adoptive homes and will be adopted once the paperwork is done. She is, however, seeking adoptive parents for two older girls.
Being a concurrent foster parent requires guardians to play multiple roles.
They "love the child like your own," said Dave Dykshoorn, provide support to the birth parents, prepare for the possibility of adopting the child and also prepare for the possibility of giving the child back.
The process takes an emotional toll that "nobody should have to be put through," he said. But the guidance, counseling and legal support provided by Mages made the experience a good one -- a far better experience than adopting through a private agency.
"Tina did a fantastic job," he said.
"We would choose to do it all over again," said Tracy Dykshoorn.
The couple's experience began a couple years ago when the Dykshoorns provided long-term foster care to two young children of a single mother. Besides caring for the children, they created a strong relationship with the mother, who eventually won back custody of the kids.
Because they missed the children, and in order to give the mom a break, they continued to visit with the children and mother.
At the same time they began working with a private adoption agency.
The Dykshoorns then began caring for another foster child from the county -- an infant girl. Through the concurrent foster care program, they later adopted the child, who is now 2 years old.
About a month after the adoption was complete, the Dykshoorns got a call from the birth mother of their first foster children. The woman was pregnant with another child and she wanted the Dykshoorns to adopt it.
Because that child was not a ward of the state, the adoption was conducted through a private agency.
Besides being expensive, the Dykshoorns said they thought the private agency did not provide adequate counseling and did not provide respectful or timely communication. They also said the agency did not provide follow-up care.
By contrast, the county adoption is free, assistance is provided in drawing up agreements for visitations with birth parents and there is 18 months of post-adoptive services available.
The county program was "500 times better than the private system," said Dave Dykshoorn.
When a former foster family has adopted a child through the county, the family is no longer able to serve as a foster family. That means the county is constantly looking for new families to serve as foster parents, and November is National Adoption Awareness month when special focus is placed on the effort.
For information about the county's adoption program, call Mages at the Family Services Department at 320-231-7800, ext. 2437.