MOUNT VERNON — November is National Adoption Month, a month set aside each year to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care. The 2011 theme for National Adoption Month is “Build Capacity to Make Lasting Change.” This year’s campaign is targeted toward the recruitment of families for preteens, children ages 8 to 12 years old.
Connie LaRue, foster care and adoption coordinator at Knox County Job & Family Services, said, “I think we have a lot of children nationwide that are waiting for an adoptive family who are preteen and teen, ages 8 to 18. Many of the calls that you get when a family calls in about the adoption process say, ‘I’m looking for 0 to 5 years old.’ Most of our waiting children are older.”
Due to what are called kinship homes, LaRue said, Knox County probably has fewer than a dozen children in foster or residential care. “Kinship homes,” she explained, “are homes that care for children and take custody when necessary, but are relatives and friends of the families who can step up and take care of the children when their parents aren’t able to. It’s helpful because it’s less traumatic for the children to go to somebody they already know: Same school district most likely, same neighborhood, same friends — a lot of help in lessening the trauma of the child.
“We do have 11 certified adoptive homes in Knox County, families who are searching for a child to adopt and three are currently in the certification process. We assist those families with the adoptive process.”
According to the Knox County Probate/Juvenile Court, there have been 16 filings for adoptions in Knox County so far this year. In 2010, there were 23 filings; 11 in 2009; and 16 in 2008.
People who adopt children are special, as are the children they adopt, and a new book titled “Searching for ... The You We Adore” has been published just in time for National Adoption Month. Written by Valerie Westfall, it is a children’s picture book that honors families who open their hearts to children through adoption and celebrates each child’s unique adoption story.
New York Times best-selling illustrator and local resident Richard Cowdrey — of Marley fame — produced the artwork for the book.
“For five years, basically,” Cowdrey told the News, “Marley kept me really busy. I had a great time with it, but I told my wife I would really like to do something that had more of a purpose, a deeper meaning. Something that would really bless people. Just as I was finishing Marley up, I got a call from this woman in Texas [Westfall] who had written this story. When I read the story, I thought, ‘Wow, this is exactly what I was hoping for and praying for.’”
Westfall told Cowdrey there wasn’t much out there for kids who had been adopted that was a positive message.
Cowdrey said, “She wanted to create a book for some little kids, especially an international adoptive child, whose parents could sit down at night and read it to them and help them feel very special. They should feel special: They were chosen.”
That is something which is close to Cowdrey’s heart. Although he and his wife do not have any adopted children, they have financially supported adoption agencies, especially Compassion International.
“In fact,” said Cowdrey, “we’ve raised a few kids through Compassion International.”
When their own children were small, the Cowdreys supported a child named Agnes from Kenya. Later the family added children in Nigeria, Honduras and Thailand, supporting them from preschool through high school.
“We write to them every two months,” Cowdrey said, “and they write back, which is kind of cool. The children from Thailand write in a very different style, which is interpreted for us. They usually draw pictures, especially when they find out that’s what I do for a living, so we get lots of pictures.”
“Searching for ... The You We Adore” is available at Paragraphs Bookstore, 105 S. Main St., and Cowdrey will be there for a book-signing on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“I am very thankful to be able to do the type of work I love to do,” said Cowdrey. “I recognize where the talent and opportunities come from and desire to honor God with my work and with my life. I care greatly about each piece of art I work on; I care ultimately about each person I work with.”