Home cooking sought at adoption group picnic

August 01, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

The day was filled with hope for the African-American children who wandered around the pond during a picnic Friday at Fort Meade's Burba Park cottage -- hope that they might be adopted.

"One Church, One Child," an African-American adoption program, was holding its annual adoption-recruitment picnic. More than 100 adults and children attended. The older children knew why they were there.

The younger children were not told because of their age.

About 5,000 children are in the state's foster care system, 75 percent of them are minorities. Most are black males, said Jean Richardson, a program recruiter for "One Church, One Child."

The program is based on one started in 1980 in Chicago by the Rev. George Clements, a Roman Catholic priest who defied the church by adopting three sons, after a state social worker asked him to help recruit black families for black children.

"One Church, One Child," which is now in 27 states, seeks to combine the powerful influence of black clergy from all denominations with the

resources of social service agencies. The goal is to find homes for black children.

Pastors are asked to try to persuade at least one member from their congregation to adopt a child. Recruiters also visit community organizations to tell people about the program.

"We go anywhere there is a large group of people," said Mildred Gee, program supervisor.

More than 200 Baltimore-area churches responded when the program began in Maryland in 1988. Since then, 125 minority children have been placed with adoptive families, said Ms. Gee.

The potential adoptive families and the children awaiting adoption came to Friday's picnic from various counties.

Some of the children, who ranged in age from 3 months to 13 years,came from foster homes. Others came from orphanages.

Each child wore a color-coded name tag.

A red tag indicated the court had not officially awarded custody of the child to social services. A blue tag meant custody had been awarded to social services and the child was ready to be adopted. The average child waits about two years in the foster care system before being adopted, Ms. Gee said.

Local social service agencies screened the potential adoptive parents before allowing them to attend the picnic.

Denise Turner, a single parent who adopted her daughter Shardae about four years ago through another "One Church, One Child" picnic, came out to support her neighbor, Zarry Thomas, who is considering adoption.

Both said the day-long event gives the families seeking to adopt and the children awaiting homes a chance to meet each other in a relaxed atmosphere.

"You can meet the kids and see what their personalities are, and then you can go back to your trusty little phone and get done in a few months what can take years," said Ms. Turner, referring to how quickly a child can go home with a family, once the paperwork is done. She got her daughter in October 1989. The paperwork was completed the following April.

The children up for adoption come from a mix of backgrounds. Some are siblings. Some have special needs. Ms. Turner's daughter suffered lead poisoning while in a foster care home. Because of their age, older children often have a harder time being adopted than younger children.

"Everybody wants a cute little infant," said Ms. Turner. "But the older child needs a home, just like the young ones."

Her daughter, now 7, was 3 years old when they met.

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