Lake Area gets high marks for adoption process

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

The Lake Charles area is second in the state in the timeliness in which it completes adoptions, state and local officials

said.

Forty-six percent of adoptions in the

Lake Charles area are completed in less than 24 months — the timetable

the federal government

suggests — which is second in the state behind New Orleans, Trey

Williams, communications director for the state Department

of Children and Family Services, said.

From the date of custody, adoptions in Calcasieu usually take about 20 to 23 months to complete, Cathy Michiels, regional administrator for DCFS, said.

New Orleans completes 65 percent of its adoptions within the 24-month timeframe, while Covington is third with a 31 percent

rate, Shreveport and Alexandria have a 28 percent rate and Lafayette 25 percent, Williams said.

The Lake Charles region encompasses Calcasieu, Cameron, Beauregard, Allen and Jeff Davis parishes, Michiels said.

According to information on the DCFS website, families who want to adopt a child in state custody must first be certified,

then the child must live in the home for six months before the adoption can be filed.

Louisiana leads the nation in the timeliness in which it completes adoptions, Williams said.

“That’s something that Louisiana does very well,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu nominated 14th Judicial District family court Judge Guy Bradberry as an “Angel in Adoption” in 2012,

an award for which he was recognized nationally.

“It’s just about leadership and just about the common decency that every child deserves a family,” Landrieu, co-chairman of

the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Landrieu said that while domestic adoptions have increased, the number of international adoptions have dropped off, although

there is still a need.

Bradberry and Michiels said the area’s timeliness in completing adoptions is the result of a team effort.

“It’s the great communication between the foster care workers, the adoptions workers and attorneys all working together to

get these kids in homes,” said Bradberry.

Bradberry said he was glad to see adoption and social workers recognized for the work they do.

“DCFS is usually criticized for what they do, but they have to intervene in trauma,” he said. “Their experienced and committed

adoption and home development workers have been phenomenal.”

Over the past nine months, 69 adoptions have been completed in the Lake Charles region, Michiels said.

“Our goal is a forever family, whether that is back with their family or permanent placement through adoption,” Michiels said.

“When a child comes into our care, of course we want them to go back to their family if possible, but we also know that’s

not always the best option.”

Michiels said she believes there are several reasons that the Lake Charles region is able to complete adoptions under the

national timeline.

The early involvement and good communication of all involved parties ­— whether social workers, adoption workers, or attorneys

— on a case.

“They know the case from the beginning, practically,” Michiels said. “This allows adoption workers to be sure when a case

does come to them, they have all the adoption papers.”

When seeking foster homes for children, DCFS workers look “for a family that will not only foster them, but also might be

willing to adopt,” Michiels said.

Local judges who are “committed to the best outcome for the children.”

Michiels said that includes the willingness to terminate parentage from the children’s birth parents if necessary.

“No one wants to terminate parental rights without proper consideration,” she said. “However, when it becomes obvious that

termination is the appropriate decision, our judges are willing to make the hard calls.”

Michiels said organizations such as Trinity Baptist Church spread the word for the need for adoptive parents. She said Trinity

sponsors a Heart Gallery — photos of children in need of homes — that moves to different churches.

“We are very lucky in that within our DCFS family and within the community and with the judges and private attorneys, we all

work well together,” Michiels said.