Rotary hosts adoption meet-and-greet
Prospective parents say first meetings can be awkward, but well worth the effort.
In the gymnasium at Lakeway Church, Robert and Sandra Coy were among dozens of prospective parents interacting with foster children, hoping for a certain spark.
The Hutto couple sat in folding chairs on March 4, watching a group of children throwing colored balls at a large inflatable game board. The whole gym was a din of noise and play, wrapped in the pressure of expectation. Robert stood for a few minutes and played with the children, handing them balls to throw. It was a seemingly small interaction, but this was how the couple met their son and daughter last year, at the same event hosted by the Lakeway/Lake Travis Rotary Club.
This was the seventh consecutive year that the Lakeway/Lake Travis Rotary Club has hosted the private adoption event, and 66 children ages 8 to 15 — more foster kids than ever — were registered by Child Protective Services to attend the event. Hopeful parents are registered and licensed with adoption agencies, having gone through background checks and training. The Rotary books space in the church and then spends money for arcade-style games and food.
“The kids 8 to 15 are a tougher group to get adopted,” Rotary President Barker Keith said. “This creates the environment where the parents might sit down and have popcorn with them or go play games together. We provide the venue, CPS provides the kids and parents.”
Many of the parents have gone through training on how to deal with trauma in children, said Grace Lindgren with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. She said the goal is to have the parents “meet (the children) where they’re at” instead of seeing trauma as a problem.
“Most of these kids have been abused or neglected, and their parents were unable to care for them,” Department of Family and Protective Services Foster/Home Adoption Program Director Holly Benningfield said. “Some are highly traumatized, some have been in multiple (foster homes). Some children need more help.”
Events like this one are crucial to getting kids adopted, Lindgren said. Oftentimes couples are more likely to adopt children after they’ve met them than simply reading descriptions.
Last year, the Rotary event resulted in nine adoptions, Benningfield said. According to Rotary event organizer Nancy Keetch, the event has resulted in about 50 adoptions over the seven years it’s been held.
After families and foster children make an initial connection, home visits are conducted, and the families and children will meet several more times. The adoption process takes months.
Robert Coy said the process of meeting a child to adopt is always awkward, but at least the Lake Travis Rotary event is more fun and less “stale” than an event he and Sandra attended in Houston. Last year, he said, the Lake Travis Rotary event took advantage of the ideal weather to set up several games outside, and the atmosphere was even more like a carnival. There, the couple met their son Noah, 10, and Lily, 8. Now, Robert said, they’re looking for a sibling or two.
“If they did this more, more of these children would have forever homes,” Robert Coy said.
“It’s a very scary thing for both the kids and us,” Sandra Coy said. “It’s uncomfortable and awkward. But it can also be a beautiful moment when you see a child and know. It’s happened to us twice before.”
Hutto resident Robert Coy helps foster children retrieve balls out of an inflatable game board during the Lakeway/Lake Travis Rotary Club adoption event at Lakeway Church on March 4.