Success in finding homes for kids
WILLMAR -- For the first time in nearly a dozen years, there are no children in Kandiyohi County waiting to be adopted.
But Tina Mages knows that could change tomorrow.
Mages, a social worker who coordinates the county's adoption program for children who become wards of the state, completed three adoptions this year and is in the process of finalizing a fourth.
"There are no children waiting," Mages said. "I think that's the first time I've ever said that. We've had a pretty successful year."
There are, however, nearly 1,200 children living in other Minnesota counties still waiting to be adopted.
The success this year in Kandiyohi County was in large part due to the county's solid foster-care program, which attempts to match children with families who are open to adoption. Many adoptive parents are foster parents first, Mages said.
When it comes to finding parents to adopt children, who may be older, be in sibling groups and have likely experienced some form of abuse or neglect, Mages said those who have already adopted children become the best recruiters.
"Word of mouth," she said, is what brings people into her office.
But during November, which is National Adoption Awareness Month, a local campaign supported by Papa Murphy's Pizza has also generated interest in adoption.
This month 5,000 fliers that say "papas and mamas needed" were sent out with pizzas purchased at the Willmar store. As a direct result of that campaign, Mages said she talked to three families and two have already filled out the paperwork.
Mages has no doubt that by the time those forms are processed over the next three months, there will be children in the county waiting to be adopted who will need new parents and a new home.
There are children in the county who are currently in foster care that will eventually need permanent homes, she said.
In a report recently to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, Mages discussed "openness in adoption" that's becoming more prevalent with family service adoption cases.
Given the fact that many of the children have been abused or neglected to the point that the courts have terminated rights of their biological parents, Mages said some may wonder why children should maintain any connection with their birth parents.
Each situation is "case specific" and Mages said abuse is so severe in some cases that all contact needs to be eliminated. But there are "attachments" between children and their biological families, and severing those ties completely could "do a lot of harm to that child," Mages said.
Having an open adoption could mean minimal contact, such as adoptive parents sending birth parents a photo or a school report of the child once a year, she said, which leaves the "door cracked a little bit" for when the child has questions in the future about their biological parents.
In some cases it's impossible not to have contact with the child's birth family when everyone lives in the same community.
Mages said one adoptive family was shopping in Willmar one day when they saw the child's aunt and cousins in the next aisle. Instead of hurrying away to avoid contact, they went to a restaurant and had lunch.
"We have some families who do an amazing job with that here," she said.
Mages said she gets up to 15 requests a year from adults who were adopted as children in the county who are now seeking information about their birth families.
"It does show there is that underlying need for children to have some answers," said Mages.
Maintaining some level of openness in the adoption makes that process easier years later. "It's an avenue to get those questions answered," she said.