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"Kids are a lot harder than horses and dogsthey are more complicated."



is a rhythm to childhood that, if eloquently experienced, can move a young person along with poise and purpose.

It is a litany of sights and sounds: a child's glee when gliding heavenward on an outdoor swing; the idle chat of a family friend gently braiding a child's hair; adults clinking champagne-filled glasses in front of a flier on a refrigerator reading: "Join us in celebrating our official family union on National Adoption Day."

Saturday was a chance for two 285 Corridor residents, Mike and Robin, to begin a new rhythm with their two adopted daughters, whose lives once knew a drumbeat of pain and displacement.

It was a day the couple had envisioned for a very long time.

"Are you ready to be responsible for (these girls) as if they were naturally born unto you?" a judge asked Mike and Robin in a Jefferson County courtroom Saturday morning. Beside them, on either side, sat two wide-eyed sisters dressed in taffeta and velvet.

"Do you believe this adoption is in (their) best interests?"

It was the last requirement for this temporary family to become permanently unitedthe last in a series of steps that began nine months ago when the two handsome girls came to live with Mike and Robin. It had been even longer for the couple, who first considered adoption in 2001.

o o o

Mike and Robin were among 24 families in Jefferson County who adopted children on National Adoption Day, Nov. 17.

The annual event is a collective national effort to raise awareness regarding the 114,000 children in foster care who are available for adoption. For the last eight years, judges, attorneys, adoption professionals, child welfare agencies and advocates have joined forces on the day to complete the process of helping these children find permanent homes.

The day is celebrated each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

In Colorado, there remain 750 children in need of permanent homes, 30 of whom are in foster care in Jefferson County.

Mike and Robin, who have been married nine years, had their heart set on adopting a child more than six years ago. But the death of Mike's mother temporarily derailed those plans because he had to spend time addressing important family matters.

By then they had experienced disappointment when young candidates slipped away and records of the couple's progress were lost at a private adoption agency.

By the time they contacted Jefferson County Human Services in search of a child to adopt, Robin had spent many years caring for the children of her friends.

"It was like having a sitter that you didn't have to leave notes for," said a family friend named Cheryl. "She would make (my kids) a better dinner than I would. They didn't sit in front of the TVthey would sing, make jewelry or holiday wreaths. I would come home, and there would be drawings on my table."

By the time the couple officially became foster parents, they were close to age 50, give or take a year. But they had accumulated an arsenal of skill sets related to adoption. They had attended a "dynamite" program through Jefferson County, as well as attended meetings with trained counselors. And, they had watched many episodes of "Supernanny," they are proud to add.

Mike and Robin planned to adopt one girl between the age of 5 and 8, until a caseworker brought them siblings.

"We have two girls for youages 5 and 8," the caseworker said.

"Most families want to adopt as close to a baby as possible, which means all the older kids that need families are overlooked," Mike said, thinking back on the experience. "It worked out perfect for Robin and Iwe don't want babies; we are getting too old for that."

These girls were certainly not babies, in age or experience, which accounted for occasional angry outbursts at their foster parents, such as "You're stupid!" or "I hate food!''an understandable sentiment for a child who in times past ate cereal three times a day mixed with water and not milk.

o o o

Children are removed from their biological families only when allegations of abuse or neglect surface in those relationships, according to Jody Caporaso, a supervisor with Jefferson County's department of children, youth and families. "Our first priority is to keep children with their biological families, (but) this is not always possible due to the specific situation with each case."

These girls had spent time with five different foster care families before they met Mike and Robin. On the first day, they began calling them Mom and Dad.

One of the girls sings like a bird; the other was born the year Mike and Robin were married. The younger is chatty; the older is quiet and overprotective.

Doubts have turned to trust over the last nine months for this blended familyduring day trips to the river, or a weekend spent at Disneyland; during horseback rides and time spent in the girls' playhouse, where they scribble menu items on a chalkboard above a tea set: "the specul to night is stake."

"Kids are a lot harder than horses and dogsthey are more complicated," said Robin, amused by the challenge. And she should know, being the owner of four horses, three dogs and two cats.

Adjustment comes in stages, she explains, marked by moments when frenzied days and frustrating behaviors give way to calm and promise.

"You spend time with one child by yourself, and you realize there is so much (depth) there."

o o o

The drive to the courthouse Nov. 17 was terrifying for Mike and Robin's girls.

Court appearances meant something different to these children, who had witnessed police encounters in the home they once shared with their biological parents.

But this day was a new beginning, with a new backdropcomplete with silver necklaces engraved with the letters of their new last name.

By Saturday afternoon, when friends gathered at the home of Mike and Robin, their comfortable routine had resumed. You could hear it in the cadence of the voices speaking softly at two dining room tables: an opera singer, a cancer survivor, a teacher, a college student and a chef.

The girls were home now, for a certaintyhome with their bunk beds under the tiny white stars glued to the ceiling. Home with a menagerie of dogs, cats and horses, with an upright piano, and with a computer screen, in its own comforting rhythm, showing a slide show of photos of the girls.

"I'm glad you guys adopted us," the oldest said.



According to statistics compiled by the sponsors of National Adoption Day, an estimated 523,000 children are in foster care in the United States, and more than 114,000 of them are waiting to be adopted.

A national survey showed that four in 10 Americans have considered adoption. That translates into more than 80 million Americans. If only one out of 500 Americans adopted from the foster care system, these children would have homes. (Source: National Adoption Attitudes Survey 2002; Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption:

Since 1987, the number of children in foster care has nearly doubled, and the average time a child remains in foster care has lengthened to nearly three years. Each year, approximately 20,000 children in foster care will age out of the system without ever being placed with a permanent family.

In September 2003, of the 523,000 children in foster care, 35 percent were black non-Hispanic, 39 percent were white non-Hispanic; 17 percent were Hispanic; 2 percent were American Indian/Alaskan Native; 1 percent Asian non-Hispanic, 3 percent two or more races non-Hispanic; and 3 percent unable to determine.

The adoptive family structure is as follows: married couples, 67 percent; single females, 28 percent; single males, 3 percent; and unmarried couples, 2 percent.

If you are interested in adopting, contact the Jefferson County Human Services Department at 303-271-1388.















































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