North Dakotans Recognized at Adoption Celebration
November 10, 2004
BISMARCK, N.D. - Thirteen individuals were recognized in Fargo today at North Dakota's 2004 Adoption Celebration. The North Dakota Department of Human Services and licensed child placement agencies organized the event to honor adoptive parents, birth parents, and advocates, and to highlight the needs of children in North Dakota who are waiting to be adopted.
The honorees included adoptive parents Ken and Lisa Farnham of Fargo, and birth parents Santana and Michael. The four shared the Adoption Triad Award, which recognizes open adoptions involving children placed as infants. These adoptive and birth parents maintain an ongoing, open relationship.
The Special Needs Adoptive Family of the Year Award was presented to two families at the celebration: Todd and Teresa Kaste of Fargo and Ronald and Roberta Soper of Webster, N.D. The Kastes were recognized for adopting two young relatives and a foster child and for encouraging strong connections with their Native American roots and the children's extended birth families. Todd was diagnosed with a terminal illness shortly after the adoptions were finalized and died this past year. The Sopers have provided foster care to about 67 children over the past 15 years and subsequently adopted three of their foster children. The Sopers are raising the children in a way that acknowledges the Native American heritage of two of their children, and are supporting positive relationships with the children's relatives.
John Dietz, a retired judicial referee from the Fargo area; foster parents Michael and Beverly Lindsey of Kindred, N.D.; Lisa Johnson, a social worker at Cass County Social Services; and Julie Hoffman, Adoption Administrator for the state human services department in Bismarck, each received the Adoption Advocate Award.
Dietz was recognized by peers in the adoption field for the compassion and concern he expressed in his interactions with birth parents and others during his 26 years of service with the East Central Judicial District. The Lindseys, who have provided foster care over the past 25 years to about 90 infants waiting for adoptive placements, were recognized for their advocacy on behalf of parents and children.
Colleagues recognized Johnson as a strong advocate for families and for the quality work she provides as a case manager for families with children in out-of-home placements and as a trainer for potential foster and adoptive parents. Child placement agency staff surprised Hoffman at the celebration by presenting her with an advocacy award in recognition of her work streamlining the adoption process in North Dakota and her ongoing support of adoption assistance for families who adopt children with special needs.
Following the awards, organizers held a "calling out" ceremony to highlight the 13 North Dakota children who are waiting to be adopted. The Adults Adopting Special Kids (AASK) Program, a collaboration of licensed child placing agencies that serve foster children, is currently working to place these children with families.
In 2003, 328 adoptions were completed in North Dakota. Of these, 121 involved adoptions of children with special needs placed through the AASK program, 39 involved healthy infants, nine involved foreign-born children, and three involved relative placements. The remaining 156 adoptions involved children who were adopted by stepparents.
Families and individuals interested in exploring adoption can contact the AASK Program, which provides adoption services exclusively for children in the foster care system, or one of the other state-licensed child-placement agencies in North Dakota. Detailed information is available on the Department of Human Services' Web site at www.nd.gov/dhs/services/childfamily/adoption/.
Placement agencies provide a variety of services including family recruitment, preparation and assessment; child preparation and placement; and post-placement supportive services.
The Frank O. Becker Endowment Fund, a component of the North Dakota Community Foundation, provided funding for the adoption celebration.
Contacts: Julie Hoffman, Adoption Administrator, (701) 328-4805, Leanne Johnson, AASK Program Director, (701) 271-3265, or Heather Steffl, Public Information Officer, (701) 328-4933.