State launches campaign to recruit foster and adoptive parents
By Kyla King The Grand Rapids Press April 28, 2010
For anyone thinking of fostering or adopting a child, Tammy Schnyders has a message: It might not always be easy, but it is entirely worth it.
Schnyders, who along with her husband, Steve, has been a foster and adoptive parent to more than 25 children in 14 years said the rewards far outweigh the trials.
"I look at my kids and how far they have come from when we first got them, and that's huge for me," said Schnyders, a West Michigan resident and foster parent for Bethany Christian Services.
"What I keep going back to is if they weren't in a good home they might not succeed in life," she said.
State leaders are hoping to find folks who feel the same way when they kick off a statewide campaign today in Grand Rapids to recruit foster and adoptive parents.
"You don't have to go to China to adopt a child or to be a foster care parent," said Ismael Ahmed, director of the Michigan Human Services Department.
Ahmed will stop at Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids today to launch the campaign that includes radio spots, newspaper advertisements and a new website and toll-free hotline.
The goal is to make it simple for anyone thinking of being a foster parent to start the process and to, hopefully, find homes for the more than 16,000 children in the state's foster care system.
"It's not an impossible task," Ahmed said. "You really don't have to be perfect to be a good parent, and in this case you don't even have to be married."
"We are looking for all kinds of families and, hopefully, all kinds of backgrounds and cultures."
Schnyders and her husband, who have two biological children, began fostering after illness left her unable to give birth again.
The couple has often ended up adopting their foster children. They currently have eleven kids ranging in age from seven to 22.
"These kids really do need a good home because where they're at usually is not a place that's conducive for learning or succeeding -- they're just in survival mode," Schnyders said.
Ahmed said state leaders hope to continue a trend that has reduced 6,000 children who were "backed up in the system" down to about 1,600.
Interested parents must complete a background check and evaluation process before partner organizations like Bethany work to pair them with a good fit, he said.
YOU CAN HELP
What? The state has launched a campaign to recruit foster and adoptive parents.
Why? There are more than 16,000 children in Michigan's foster care system
How can I find out more? Visit adoptuskids.org or call 888-200-4005.
BY THE NUMBERS
County: 2009 | 2010
Allegan (homes): 94 | 114
Allegan (kids): 152 | 134
Kent (homes): 417 | 483
Kent (kids): 865 | 929
Muskegon (homes): 197 | 222
Muskegon (kids): 420 | 454
Ottawa (homes): 164 | 200
Ottawa (kids): 124 | 159
Kalamazoo (homes): 209 | 246
Kalamazoo (kids): 394 | 440