By Laura Ann Brown Tipps
On July 7, the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) will begin a 10-week training course in Gadsden to educate families interested in adopting children from the Alabama Foster Care System.
This will be the first time that the Group Preparation and Selection (GPS) training course has been offered in the Gadsden area and marks the beginning of an exciting adoption process.
Caitlin Licata is in the Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections (APAC) department of the CAS and has been working with the “Pre” services part of the course to locate Gadsden families interested in adoption from the foster care system.
“Once families express interest, we discuss requirements to adopt out of the foster care system,” said Licata.
The family then fills out Application, Child Desired, and Financial paperwork, which CAS uses to decide if the family will be screened into GPS classes.
The GPS program in Gadsden will consist of 10 meetings totaling 30 hours in a classroom, as well as home interview time with a social worker.
During the GPS course, families can decide if adoption is right for them, figure out what kinds of children would fit best into their homes and assess their own strengths and weaknesses.
After Week 10, the social worker assigned to a family’s case has six weeks to turn in a completed home study to the Alabama Department of Human Resources for approval or denial.
Upon a family’s approval, “CAS consultants then match the families with children based on strengths and needs of both parties,” Licata said.
APAC’s “Post” services kick in after a completed adoption. The service includes mentoring, counseling, support groups and a resource library.
“All of these services are free of charge to the families,” Licata pointed out.
Every minute of this process has been a blessing for Kim Weaver, a St. Clair County resident who adopted through CAS and the foster care system in 2011.
“I’d spent about a year looking online at agencies and foreign adoptions before I realized, why would I do that when there are so many right here in Alabama that need forever families,” she said.
Weaver and her son Chris immediately hit it off at their first meeting in 2010 at a Chick-fil-A restaurant.
“We talked, and it was just so comfortable,” she said. “When we left, he asked for my phone number.”
Seven-year-old Chris called Weaver that night, beginning a series of calls and visits that quickly led Weaver to the conviction that this was the child God meant for her to have.
Chris officially became her son in November 2011.
Of the GPS classes and APAC resources, Weaver said, “When you adopt a child who’s already been in at least one home, they have history, and you need to learn how to approach them and handle situations.”
APAC is still there for the Weavers, ready to provide support whenever it is needed, although the adoption was completed almost three years ago.
Licata is excited to provide this opportunity to Gadsden families for the first time. She believes that every round of classes is a chance for more children to find forever homes, especially in a city like Gadsden that has not been familiarized with the services CAS and APAC can offer.
“People don’t always realize how important it is for older children to find homes before they age out of the system,” she said. “Every adult needs a family just as much as a child does.”
There are hundreds of children in Alabama who have been in the system and are available for adoption.
Gadsden families have a prime opportunity to provide these children with excellent homes and with the unconditional love they may have never known, and CAS is thrilled to facilitate these unions by bringing the GPS program to this city.
“The most rewarding thing is to see the kids finally having forever homes that they don’t have to worry about losing,” said Licata.
For more information on the Children’s Aid Society in Birmingham, call 205-251-7148, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit childrensaid.org.