First Posted: 11/18/2014
SHAVERTOWN — In honor of National Adoption Month, the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly Church hosted “Adoption Rocks,” an adoption awareness event, on Nov. 16.
The carnival-themed event was organized by the PA State Wide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) and featured multiple adoption agencies offering information on foster parenting and adoption.
SWAN supports the work of county agencies in helping to find permanent homes for children in the county children and youth system, many of whom are older or have special needs and are living in foster care or group homes.
“This church has been very supportive of the foster care and adoption program,” SWAN director Roberta Daniels said of the BMHA.
The event also provided a chance for adoptive and foster families to reunite with the people who’ve helped them along the way.
“There were five or six families, that just came by to say ‘hi,’” said Daniels. “Sixty-five percent of the families that do foster care, adopt the children into their homes,” she added.
Rich Pais, rxecutive firector of CASA of Luzerne County said his agency provides court-appointed advocates for children in the child welfare system. CASA is an acronym for “court-appointed special advocate.”
“At any given moment in Luzerne County, there are 500 kids being abused or neglected,” he said.
“Our advocates help the judge determine what actions are necessary to help the child,” Pais said.
CASA of Luzerne County was “born” two years ago as a result of the “Kids for Cash” scandal, he said, adding that his agency currently utilizes 34 volunteer advocates, each assigned to one child at a time.
Depending on the age and situation of each child, the agency matches them with an appropriate advocate. “They take them to sports lessons, tutor them and get to know them and their families,” Pais said. “They get to know the good and bad in their lives and report it to the judge.”
Pais has three children, two of whom are adopted. He was scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C. on Nov. 19 to accept the Excellence in Adoption and Permanency Award from the Department of Health and Human Services through his work with his former employer, Wilkes-Barre Racing, a non-profit agency that organizes athletic activities to raise money and awareness for child foster care and adoption.
To qualify to be a CASA, you must be at least 21, pass a background check and complete training, said Pais, adding that he plans to hold a class sometime in January.
It takes a special kind of person to commit themselves to helping a child in need, he said.
“It takes one person, one-on-one, pouring themselves into another. That’s how you change the world. That’s how you change a life.”