November is National Adoption Month.
For CASA for York County advocate Phyllis Brumbaugh National Adoption Month has an extra-special meaning; during her time volunteering for CASA, she has had two of her cases go to new families.
She said that the system tries to “give every opportunity to give the child back.” According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, of the 2,961 children exiting out-of-home care in 2014 in Nebraska, 56% were reunited with parents or primary caretakers. Nebraska DHHS states that if a child cannot be returned to their parents and parental rights have been terminated, a foster child can be put up for adoption. “They [biological parents] come to a point where they know this is what they have to do,” Brumbaugh said. “As it gets closer, we know when the child is probably going to be adopted.”
According to the national CASA website, there are 400,540 children in the nation’s foster care system – over 6,000 in Nebraska alone, with over 900 waiting as adoption candidates. Locally, Brumbaugh said she has observed a common issue for York area CASA cases. “A lot of our cases have to deal with drugs.”
Brumbaugh has been a CASA volunteer for about five years, following her husband’s passing a few years earlier. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers work both in and out of the legal system, advocating for the child in court, and getting to know the child and their family. They develop relationships with their child, family members and foster families.
“The goal of CASA is to make sure the child is safe, and to keep things moving,” Brumbaugh said. “They need consistency and as much of a normal life that they can have.”
Because the goal of the system is to keep children with their families, adoption from the biological parents’ end can be bittersweet. Brumbaugh said she feels compassion for the biological parents. “I felt sad for the moms,” Brumbaugh said. Even so, she said she feels optimistic about her charges’ adoptions. “I really love the people who adopted – I felt really good about the adoptions. They both went to wonderful families. Some people are just very giving; they open their homes and are really amazing people.”
Having two of her CASA cases go to new families, Brumbaugh has seen what a difference adoption can make. “They make great changes in a stable atmosphere – kids are really resilient,” she said. “It makes an unbelievable difference.”
Throughout her years volunteering, Brumbaugh has felt connections with her cases. “I think about the kids probably more than I should,” she said. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t care.”
“CASA for York County supports and provides volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children, enabling them to thrive in a safe, permanent home.” To learn more about CASA for York County, including how to become a volunteer, go to http://www.casaforyork.org. If you and your family would like to learn more about adopting a child, call Nebraska DHHS adoption information line at 1-800-7PARENT (1-800-772-7368).