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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."
"Celebrating adoption during the month of November is important to raise awareness of the need for foster and adoptive families for the children in our state who need safe, stable and loving homes, but DCFS works tirelessly throughout the year to place foster children with their forever families," said DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson. "Today we are celebrating the 646 children who found their forever families in the last year and the parents who opened their hearts and their homes to some of our state's most vulnerable children."
Louisiana families and their newly adopted children were guests of honor at the afternoon celebration, which featured children's entertainment, face painting and balloon animals by "Bubbles the Clown." The St. Michael the Archangel High School Jazz Band also performed.
Following remarks by Sonja Wiley-Patton, Ph. D., an adoptive parent, advocate and Associate Professor at the E.J. Ourso College of Business at Louisiana State University, DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson presented the agency's Adoption Advocate and Community Support awards.
Terri and Brian Hrabovsky were honored with the Adoption Advocate Award. The Hrabovsky's are the proud parents of three biological children and one adopted child, and Terri is the president of the Southeast Louisiana Foster and Adoptive Parent Association. Together, they have fostered more than 30 children and youth and continue to be available for placements of children and youth of all races and ages. According to Johnson, the Hrabovsky's received the Adoption Advocate Award for their tireless efforts as adoptive parents and advocates.
Johnson said that the Hrabovsky's are true allies in DCFS' work to place foster children in permanent adoptive homes. From organizing events with the New Orleans Saints for older youth in foster care, providing clothing and comfort kits for children removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect and organizing Christmas gift drives and community adoption awareness events, the Hrabovsky's commitment to Louisiana's foster children and youth is evident.
Johnson also presented Community Support Awards to Donna Miller Owens, Mandilyn Buisson Holloway and Don and Judy Johnson.
Donna Miller Owens with Allstate Insurance Company of Thibodaux was honored for her generous donation of $500 to allow DCFS to host an adoption match party in the Thibodaux Region. The donation contributed to food, supplies and gifts for the children who attended to meet potential adoptive parents.
Mandilyn Buisson Holloway of Mandy Len's Photography was honored for the donation of her time and resources as a professional photographer to take high quality portraits of children in the Thibodaux Region who are available for adoption. The photos are used in the process of matching foster children with potential forever families.
Don and Judy Johnson, owners of the Kart Ranch in Lafayette, received the Community Support Award for the donation of time at their recreational facility to host a Christmas Match party each year to connect youth with adoptive families. The Johnson's work in partnership with Adopt Older Kids, Inc. to assist in promoting awareness and the adoption of older children in the Lafayette area.
Currently, there are 4,405 children in foster care. Of these, 674 children have been legally freed for adoption and are waiting to be connected with adoptive families. On average, 56 foster children become available for adoption each month.
One goal of Adoption Awareness Month is recruiting new foster and adoptive parents.
"We rely on adoption advocates and our foster and adoptive families to help us in recruiting new families who are ready to provide the love and stability needed by the many children who are available for adoption," said Johnson. "Louisiana families can truly make a difference in lives of children and youth in need of permanent homes by becoming a foster or adoptive parent."
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 2K Fun Run/Walk (open to public) - Saturday, November 5, 10 a.m., LaSalle Park, 1121 Airline Hwy, Metairie
Adoption Day Celebration - Saturday, November 19, 5:30 p.m. Louisiana Children's Museum, 420 Julia St., New Orleans
Adoption Match Party (closed to public) - Saturday, November 5, 12-2 p.m., Metairie
The Baton Rouge Region celebrated Adoption Month on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the Governor's Mansion.
Adoption Awareness Event (closed to public) - Saturday, November 12, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Skate Gallery, Baton Rouge
Adoption Celebration (closed to public) - Tuesday, November 22, 2-4 p.m., Koop Drive Trailhead at St. Tammany Trace
Adoption Awareness Celebration (closed to public) - Saturday, November 5, 10 a.m. to noon, Progressive Baptist Church
Adoption Awareness Celebration (open to public) - Saturday, November 12, 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Angela's Hair Salon, 730 Albertson Pkwy, Broussard
Annual Adoption Awareness Poster Contest, "What does family and adoption mean to you?" (closed to public) - Sponsored by Tracy Curtis, Attorney at Law, South City Park, Opelousas
Adoption Awareness Benefit Motorcycle Ride (open to public) - Saturday, November 12, 10 a.m. to noon, Ride begins at 2030 North Mall Dr. and ends at 1701 Expressway Drive, Pineville
Adoption Awareness Event (open to public) - Sunday, November 13, 11 a.m., Sanctuary of Praise Church, 1701 Expressway Dr., Pineville
Adoption Awareness "Casual for a Cause Jeans Week" - November 7-11 at Lake Charles DCFS offices, staff to donate $5 for jean days for a week, proceeds to benefit Foster and Adoptive Parent recruitment activities
Adoption Awareness Celebration (open to public) - Sunday, November 19, 5 p.m., Court Square Main St., Houma
Adoption Awareness Celebration (open to public) - Saturday, November 19, 12-2 p.m., Bossier Parish DCFS office, 2123 Shred Rd., Bossier City
DCFS participates in year-round recruiting efforts for foster and adoptive parents by holding orientation meetings each month across the state. For additional information on the schedule of orientations, as well as qualifications, the certification process to care for a child or children temporarily and life as a foster family, visit www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/fostercare.
Each month, DCFS highlights foster children who are available for adoption on its website, www.dcfs.louisiana.gov, in an effort to link foster children available for adoption with families. Since the site launched in February 2009, 39 of the 110 children profiled, including nine sibling groups, have been paired with adoptive families or have adoptions in progress.
DCFS consistently works to increase the number of children placed in permanent adoptive homes each year. Last year, DCFS was awarded more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for exceeding the previous year's efforts.