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Finding a home
One family’s journey from fostering to adoption

11/23/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 As a growing number of kids enter the state’s foster care system, the number of adults participating in the system has gone down slightly. One couple who just adopted a little girl explains how rewarding the fostering process can be.

 
Amina
On Sept. 1, 2016, a 1-year-old girl arrived at the Manchester home of Erin Faith Page and her wife Caroline Cook. 
Page said that after two grueling days spent in the courts and driving around, little Amina was tired and hungry. 
“She ate a lot of applesauce,” Page said. 
After she ate, she went to sleep early and slept the whole night through. For the first two months or so, Amina was withdrawn.
“She didn’t have a lot of interactions with us. She was there, but she didn’t really cry, she didn’t really smile, she didn’t really laugh,” Page said.
But after a little while she started to open up and come out of her shell.
“If you met her now, she’s extremely sassy and has a huge personality and she’s hilarious,” Page said.
On Aug. 8, Amina turned 2.
Amina was Page’s and Cook’s first full foster care placement. Before her, they had provided respite care to a few kids in the system. One child ended up staying with a relative caregiver and another went to stay in a residential program.
They have another child in their care right now who they hope will be able to reunify with their parents. Reunification is the primary goal for most kids who enter the foster care system but when it’s not possible, the state tries to find a permanent home for the kids through adoption.
In the case of Amina, her biological mother decided early on to abandon the reunification process for the sake of her daughter and announced to the foster care team that she wanted Page and Cook to adopt Amina.
Which is why, just one short year later, Amina went from foster care to adoption, which became official on Nov. 8. Amina’s last name is now Page-Cook.
Page said the adoption brought things full circle for her, because when she was 17, she put her own daughter up for adoption. After she did that, she knew she wanted to adopt someday. Her biological daughter is now 11 and living with her adopted family in Pennsylvania. 
 
Urgent need
Page and Cook had a unique experience, and it surprised them just how fast adoption was made possible. Page said she fully expected to be providing foster care placements for a few years before she was able to adopt any kids, which was one of her dreams.
“It’s been a wonderful process and an emotional process but also the best decision that we’ve ever made,” Page said.
Catherine Meister, the adoption program manager at the state Division of Children, Youth and Families, said the more common scenario is one where foster parents help a child achieve reunification with their biological families, which is a long process that usually takes years. 
And the need for that has only increased as more kids enter the system and fewer foster parents take up the responsibility. 
“We do still have a shortage of foster homes to meet that demand,” Meister said.
In 2011 there were about 500 general foster homes in the state, but as of this past April that number has not only failed to keep up with population growth and increased demand caused by the opioid epidemic, it has gone down to about 470.
“That is a challenge that we have to deal with every day,” Meister said.
Despite this, Meister said, adoptions have increased last year compared to the year prior. From October 2016 to September 2017, there were 107 adoptions in the state. In the same period the year before, there were 85. 
Meister said the state is looking to recruit a lot more people in the state to become foster parents. She said they are looking for all kinds of people: married, single, older, younger, pet owners or not, homeowners or renters. 
“You don’t have to be a superhero to do this,” Meister said. “All you really have to have for it is a heart to want to help a child … and be willing to learn.” 





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