Child adoption efforts highlight need for parents, the high number of teens in system

Jeremy Allison-Murphy and his wife, Liz, knew they wanted to adopt JP as soon as they saw his video.

The 13-year-old was one of hundreds of Kansas children in need of adoption, most of whom are teenagers. Allison-Murphy, who works for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, said the couple wanted to give an older child a chance.

Allison-Murphy said he and his wife were relieved to complete the process earlier this month, as part of a celebration of National Adoption Day

KVC Kansas and Saint Francis Ministries contract with DCF for child placement services, including foster care and adoptions.

For National Adoption Day on Nov. 21, KVC helped facilitate the finalization of 15 adoptions, including JP, at the Shawnee County Courthouse. The process was conducted virtually, Allison-Murphy said, which made things less stressful.

Adoption agency officials say teenagers make up the majority of children who need to be adopted out of the foster care system.

Traci Rasmussen, adoption supervisor for KVC Kansas’ east region, said there are currently close to 900 kids in need of adoption, with more than 5,000 children in foster care in Kansas.

“We are really needing people to adopt teenagers, kids ages 15 through 18,” Rasmussen said. “We really need to find forever homes for these kids.”

KVC facilitates about 500 adoptions annually. Rasmussen said the number of kids in need of adoption in Kansas is higher this year than other years, and that a lot of factors go into the number of adoptable children at any given point in time.

“I think that number will stay the same if not increase as the pandemic goes on,” Rasmussen said. “Prior to the pandemic, I’d say we would have 10 to 15 kids each month.”

Rasmussen said her agency ran into some issues earlier in the year when the Kansas Supreme Court and appellate court system was closed due to pandemic precautions. She said that left some adoption cases stuck in the appeals process, with no way to advance. She said it has been a trickle-down effect, in which a delay of appellate procedures has led to some issues with newer kids that are freshly available for adoption.

Kristie MacMeeken, adoption director for Saint Francis Ministries, said there are currently 115 to 130 children who are in need of a loving home in the region she oversees, which includes central and western parts of the state. She said that number increases as other portions of Kansas are included.

Rasmussen said it is free to adopt a child — there are no out-of-pocket expenses for prospective parents. KVC Kansas pays for all attorney fees, and the agency provides free training and online classes for people interested in becoming adoptive parents.

“I think people think it’s a really difficult process but it’s not,” Rasmussen said. “You can be married, single, LGBTQ+, we don’t discriminate. We will work with people.”

— AJ Dome is a reporter for Kansas Reflector.

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