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Governor Bobby Jindal has proclaimed November Adoption Awareness Month, noting that adopted children come "to know the benefits of the permanence that is central to a sound home life provided by a loving family."
"During Adoption Month we take extra time to honor Louisiana's families who open their homes and hearts to some of the state's most vulnerable children," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "These parents are truly making a difference for Louisiana's children."
The 11th Annual Adoption Reception Celebration at the Governor's Mansion today will celebrate Louisiana families and their newly adopted children. Events for the children include face painting and "Bubbles the Clown," who will create balloon animals. The St. Michael the Archangel High School Jazz Band will also perform. The Adoption Celebration begins at 1:30 p.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m.
Additionally, two organizations, "His Heart for Orphans" from Baton Rouge's Healing Place Church and the St. Edmond's Council of the Knights of Columbus, will be honored with Community Support Awards at the reception. One family, Troy and Sherlita Sanchez of Jefferson, will be honored as outstanding adoption advocates.
On average, 422 Louisiana children were eligible for adoption and waiting to be connected with adoptive families each month of last fiscal year (July 2008 - June 2009). An average of 53 foster children become available for adoption each month.
One goal of Adoption Month is recruiting new foster and adoptive parents.
"There are nearly 5,000 foster children in Louisiana, and more than 400 of them are available to be adopted in any given month," said Nichols. "While many foster parents eventually become adoptive parents, there is always a need for more adoptive parents."
Today's event is part of a month long series of celebrations across the state in recognition of Adoption Month. Other activities taking place across the state this month include:
Adoption Awareness Celebration Saturday, November 14, 2009, 10:30 a.m. - 11:30a.m. Victory Fellowship, 5708 Airline Dr., Metairie
DSS, Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (CASA) Jefferson, Jefferson Juvenile Court judges, Wendy's Wonderful Kids and Victory Assembly with host a "seed planting" for individuals and communities to plant seeds for recruiting adoptive homes for children in need. Representatives from the New Orleans Saints and Hornets, the Louisiana Children's Choir, speakers, and adoptive families will be on hand.
Adoption Day Celebration Saturday, November 21, 2009, 5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Louisiana Children's Museum, 525 Julia Street, New Orleans
Judges Ernestine Gray and Lawrence LaGarde will officiate the final adoption proceedings of four families in a ceremony open to the public. WWL News anchor and adoptive parent Sally-Ann Roberts will be the keynote speaker. Admission is free to the public.
Adoption Wave Thursday, November 12, 2009, 7:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.
DSS Office of Community Services staff in the Monroe Region (Morehouse, Madison, Richland, Franklin, Union and Lincoln parishes) will wave banners outside their offices to thank adoptive parents for their commitment to children and to promote awareness for the need for foster and adoptive families.
Adoption Awareness Celebration Wednesday, November 18, 2009, 11:30 p.m. - 12:30 p.m. Monroe City Hall, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway, Monroe
This Adoption Awareness Celebration will feature the Heart Gallery, a collection of professional photographs of children awaiting adoptive families.
Mentor for a Day Wednesday, November 18 Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU)
Children from K Bar B, Methodist Children's Home and Jesse Dotey Youth Development Group Homes, in collaboration with SLU, will have mentors for the day, attend activities and lunch at the university.
Adoption Celebration Saturday, November 21 K Bar B Ranch, Lacombe
DSS in the Covington region will celebrate its 141 adoptions completed from October 2008 through September 2009. Parish President Kevin Davis and a local judge will speak at the event. Singing and dancing are also planned.
Adoption Celebration Wednesday, November 18, 2009, 5:00 pm till 6:00 pm Lafourche Parish Courthouse Grounds, 201 Green Street, Thibodaux
DSS will recognize adoptive families in the Thibodaux region during a celebration including music by the St. Joseph Elementary School Choir, speakers, recognition of the Adoptive Family of the Year and a balloon release. Additionally, CASA of Lafourche will host a ribbon cutting/open house ceremony to celebrate the opening of its Lafourche Parish office.
The Baton Rouge region will celebrate Adoption Month today at 1:30 p.m. at the Governor's Mansion.
A reception for adoptive families, including a candle lighting ceremony and calling out of names of Alexandria region children in need of adoptive homes, is planned for later this month. No date or place has been set.
Shreveport region OCS staff will conduct additional recruiting meetings at Haughton Baptist Church and Trinity Heights Baptist Church.
DSS participates in year round recruiting efforts for foster and adoptive parents by holding orientation meetings each month across the state. For additional information on when orientations are scheduled, as well as information on qualifications, the certification process and life as a foster family and care for a child or children temporarily, visit www.dss.louisiana.gov/fostercare .
Another initiative hopes to link foster children who are available to be adopted with families. Each month, DSS highlights foster children who are available for adoption on its Web site, www.dss.louisiana.gov . Since the site launched in February, ten of the children profiled have been paired with families and have adoptions in progress.
Some of the children currently featured on the DSS Web site include John, a mechanically-gifted 15-year-old who is considering going into the Air Force after high school, Breanna, an active nine-year-old who loves animals, and Jamal, a friendly 12-year-old whose smile lights up a room.
Those efforts resulted in DSS recently being awarded more than $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for exceeding past years' efforts to move the state's foster children into permanent adoptive homes.