'Project Zero' Aims to Get More Arkansas Foster Kids Adopted

    National Adoption Month has come to an end, but in Arkansas, almost 300 children are waiting to be adopted.

    Danielle Smith

    Project Zero is a nonprofit organization specializing in adoption through foster care working daily to make the number "zero."
    Kandace Gerber, director of marketing and development for Project Zero, said when the organization started a dozen years ago, more than 600 children were on adoption waiting lists. The numbers have decreased, but it does not make finding homes any less important.
    Gerber noted her group works to raise awareness about the children who are available for adoption.
    "And we do that through short films and our website," Gerber explained. "DCFS (Division of Children and Family Services) in Arkansas have granted us to be the only online 'Heart Gallery' that showcases a professional headshot of each of the kids that's waiting to be adopted. And we're working on getting a short film made for every single kid, to give them a voice."
    Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is among co-sponsors of the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act. The legislation aims to support lower-income families who are adopting, as well as address the number of children "aging out" of the foster-care system.
    Gerber explained most Arkansas children awaiting adoption out of foster care are 10 or older, and more than 60 of the children are a part of sibling groups. She added there is a great need for sibling adoptions, and also for older teens, to help them safely transition from the foster-care system into young adulthood. Without planning and support, she argued, the outcome is poor and can have lifelong effects.
    "The statistics that face children, if they age out of foster care at 18 or 21, are gruesome and increasing every year," Gerber pointed out. "Just the teenage pregnancy, lack of education. On average, only 3% of kids that age out of foster care finish college."
    Gerber emphasized adoption is a life-altering event, and some children they work with have experienced trauma in their lives, which can make parenting more challenging. She recommended training known as "PRIDE," Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education, offered by another nonprofit, called Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime.
    "And they offer a weekend intensive, where you are trained in how to deal with kids from trauma, because most of these kids obviously are in foster care for no fault of their own, but there's a lot of trauma," Gerber outlined. "Deal with reactive attachment disorder, and just basic, like how to 'graft' these children."
    Gerber stressed the agency has learned training makes the adoption process easier, both for parents and children.

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