By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
An irony that bugs Tony Moreland is that would-be parents stay on waiting lists for years to adopt children.
“You’ve got all these people going around saying you just couldn’t find a child to adopt,” said Moreland. “You walk down there to DFACS today and say, ‘I want to be a foster parent,’ and within a month after you go through the process you’ll be one. One month.”
In Dade County, he said, DFACS (the Division of Family and Children Services) had 21 children in care as of Dec. 6. Five of them are fully adoptable to forever-homes, but short-term foster parents are needed as well. Six kids are housed outside the county because DFACS can’t find foster parents for them in Dade.
Placing children outside their home county costs taxpayers more in transportation as they are shuttled back and forth for court dates or parental visitation. “And just imagine the disruption in the child’s life,” said Moreland.
Moreland, who with his wife, Dori, will bring home their sixth foster child this week (see accompanying article), wants to encourage others to foster, and as such is anxious to clear up a few misconceptions.
First of all, he points to his own beautiful children to demonstrate point 1: “They’re just regular kids,” he said. “You can’t look at a child and see he’s a foster child.”
Second, for people who want only brand-new babies: Come on down. “Used to be, foster children were mostly teenagers,” said Moreland. “That’s not been true for years now. Now it’s babies and young children.” He and his wife, in fact, have adopted mostly new babies.
But if you’re not the baby type, says Moreland, that’s OK, too. “There are children of all ages, shapes, sexes,” he said. “I mean, you want boys, you want girls, you want teenagers, you want small kids, you want ‘em out of diapers, in diapers – they got ‘em.”
So “I’m too old” is not a good reason not to foster, says Moreland. “You don’t get too old for a 16 year old,” he said. “You’re going to live three more years.”
And as for the excuse he hears the most – “I might fall in love, then have to give the child back” – Moreland says: Deal with it. It’s happened to him and Dori three times and is not fatal. “It’s got to be about the child and not about you,” said Moreland. “You’re a big guy or a big girl, you can handle these emotions, but these babies need a place to go. We don’t need to hide behind, ‘Oh, I might get my feelings hurt.’ ”
As for practicalities, foster children, explained Moreland, are wards of the state and as such are eligible for state programs like Peachcare and Medicaid. The state also pays a small stipend toward the child’s upkeep, maybe $14 a day, Moreland believes, and some churches also pitch in for diapers and Christmas and birthday presents. “You’re certainly not going to make any money, but you do have some help,” he said.
Moreland reminds others that when DFACS puts a child out for fostering or adoption, it’s because that child has utterly nowhere else to go. He hopes others will consider helping, whether on the long or short term.
“It may be for one day, it may be for one week, it may be for one year or it may be forever,” he said. “We need somebody to step up and say, I’ll put that child ahead of my own needs and I’ll take care of that baby.”
DFACS may be reached at (706) 657-2123.