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My son brought me the Nov. 17 News to point out the story on foster care. He knows that will push my buttons. He knows my passion. He should, because he raised my consciousness the moment he was placed in my arms.

My son's birth mother was told foster care was her only option when she delivered her baby 15 years ago, because there were no immediate adoption options for an African-American newborn. She eventually learned about my husband and me. All these years later, we still keep in touch. Our common bond is the best interests of this child, who will one day become a man, and a productive and healthy citizen in our community.

Foster care was only meant to be a temporary situation, and family reunification was the desired goal. But due to an overburdened system, this is no longer possible. There are adoption options available to women who may have children at risk for special needs and at risk for entering foster care. Adoption S.T.A.R., an Amherst-based, state-authorized agency, specializes in placing newborns at risk for entering foster care into permanent adoptive homes as soon as they are discharged from the hospital.

This program does not require county or federal dollars. In 30 months, 68 local women chose adoption over foster care for their children with this agency. Women who are minorities, or who have a history of drug abuse or mental illness, often are not given the option to decide if they wish to avoid the foster care system and make a permanent plan. Jaymaya Auls' birth mother may have been one of those women. If so, had she been given that option, she and her family would still be receiving photos and updates on the toddler and have the opportunity to know her as she grows.

The question is not: How can we prevent countless children from remaining in the system? But rather: How can we prevent these children from entering the system? Most women who are at risk for having a child enter foster care do not even realize that adoption is available.

Chairwoman, Adoption
S.T.A.R., Amherst

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