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Push toward speedier adoptions could aid kids, new parents

Louisiana residents looking toward adoption to expand their families could benefit from a developing trend that is expediting adoptions across the country as part of an effort to keep children from lingering in the foster-care system.

Figures from the Department of Health and Human Services showed that in 2002 there were about 523,000 foster children in the U.S. As of last Sept. 30, the number had fallen to slightly more than 400,000.

Aside from speedier adoptions, the numbers are due to children spending less time in foster care and growing efforts to keep children from being taken from their parents to start with. Some states have been seeking to keep children with relatives, as well.

An official with at least one state child-services department said the first goal is to reunite children with their families safely and as quickly as possible. If that can't happen, that state will encourage adoptions.

Officials in some states said they are seeing more children referred to them because of child abuse and parental substance abuse, particularly prescription drugs. Officials have had to balance youngsters' safety with the desire to make sure children spend as little time in the system as possible.

According to reports, children's stay in foster care is 10 percent less than it was a decade now. The mean time in foster care now is just short of two years. Of those 400,000 in foster care as of Sept. 30, just more than half -- 52 percent -- were male. About 25 percent of those -- 104,236 -- could be adopted.

The states' willingness to expedite adoptions could be a win-win situation. Parents who have longed to raise a child now have a greater opportunity without as long of a wait. And children who are adopted can find stability they have been longing for as they exit the foster-care system.

Source: Associated Press, "Number of children in foster care drops for 6th straight year, to 400,000, despite hard times," July 30, 2012

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