Foster and adoptive parents recognized at Herman Park event
By Gary Popp
Published in News on November 14, 2010 1:50 AM
Sherry Brubaker plays a mini-version of a snowball bowling game with her adopted daughter Hayleigh Brubaker, 3 during the Wayne County Social Services' celebration of adoptive families at Herman Park. More than 35 kids were adopted in Wayne County last year. Social services held its first celebration to coincide with National Adoption Celebration Month.
More than 50 years after growing up in a foster setting herself, Shirley Deans sought to return that gift, bringing 5-year-old Najeea into her home despite already being in her 60s and having raised six children of her own.
And it didn't take long for Mrs. Deans, who was taken in by her aunt and uncle after her own mother died when she was six years old, to decide to make Najeea a permanent part of her family.
"I am also told the child is blessed because of me, but I think I am the one who is blessed," Mrs. Deans said. "It is a joyful thing to take in an adopted child."
But not every foster child is as lucky as Najeea, and that was the message the Wayne County Department of Social Services was trying to get out Saturday at a celebration at Herman Park in honor of National Adoption Month.
The event was to celebrate the families in Wayne County that have adopted children and participated in the foster care system, and to raise awareness of the approximately 10,000 children in foster care and nearly 650 children available for adoption in North Carolina.
"We are trying to raise awareness of this need and recruit adoptive and foster parents who would be willing to commit to these children," foster home licensing worker Aaryn Fazakerly said.
In Wayne County there are 86 children in foster care.
"Our first goal is reunification any time a child comes into foster care -- get them home as quickly as possible is what we are going to try to do," Fazakerly said.
When children in the foster care system cannot be returned to their biological families' homes, at some point, a judge will decide if adoption is the best option.
"It is tragic because these children have had all ties and roots with their birth families cut and need somebody to call family," Fazakerly said.
Relative adoption and relative foster care occurs when a child is placed with a member of their family or someone who is close with the family.
"When a child comes into foster care our first priority is to put them with family, whether it be aunts, uncles, grandparents, even godparents -- someone who know the family. That is our first goal. We have plenty of grandparents that have adopted their grandchildren."
Fazakerly said that obstacles can exist for families that take foster children, but those problems can be overcome.
"It takes a special family to do it," Fazakerly said. "These kids have been through so many traumas that they are not going to be perfect angels that everybody thinks -- they are going to have some issues, but those issues can be met with love and commitment."
Sherry Brubaker never thought she would be a foster care parent.
When she and her husband married, each brought a 10-year-old to the marriage, but when they later found out they were unable to have children together, they turned to adoption. And, Mrs. Brubaker said, "In Wayne County, foster care is the easiest way to adopt."
So far, she said, they've taken in a total of nine foster children -- two of whom they've been able to adopt, a 3-year-old girl and an 8-month-old girl. The rest, she said, went back to families or family friends.
Also with her on Saturday at the festival was a young boy who's been with the family for 15 months -- the longest they've had a child without adopting, though he may leave the family in the next four days.
"We said if he can't get placed with a family member that we would adopt him also," Mrs. Brubaker said. "The hardest part is getting attached to them and letting them go."
She said they began fostering as soon as they got their license.
"It is good to know you are making a difference in the life of a child," Mrs. Brubaker said. "It is rewarding."
But she admits to wondering sometimes about how the children they've fostered are doing. She said they've attempted to reach out to the families who took them in, but so far, none of the current parents or guardians have reciprocated.
"Just to know that they are OK is the biggest thing," Mrs. Brubaker said.
Today, Najeea is 8 years old, and thanks to her, Mrs. Deans said, she's had to relearn third-grade math.
"I am getting older now, so she gives me something to do. She keeps me busy. I have to go to the school, I have to think," Mrs. Deans said. "She keeps me on my toes. She might ask me a question. So, I got to be mentally alert -- cause there is no telling what is going to come out of this child's mouth."
But she loves her, and her adult children -- the youngest of whom is 40 -- have embraced their new sister.
"Najeea asks me, 'Who are they? Are they my mom? My aunt? My sister?'," Mrs. Deans says.
Fortunately, there are plenty of grandchildren in the family for Najeea to play with now that she is a member of the family.
"The day she came into the house she was a part of my family," she said.
Deans remembers when Najeen first walked into her home she looked around and asked her new foster mother to show her room to her.
"It was strange -- it was like she was home," she said.