Ro­tary hosts adop­tion meet-and-greet

Prospec­tive par­ents say first meet­ings can be awk­ward, but well worth the ef­fort.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Rachel Rice rrice@ac­n­news­pa­pers.com

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.”

RACHEL RICE / LAKE TRAVIS VIEW

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.

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