- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 16, 2007

Metropolitan police officers at the 3rd District station received something extra with their crime alerts and duty assignments during their 7:30 a.m. roll call yesterday — an appeal to adopt a foster child.

“If you want to help us heal a child, consider becoming a foster parent,” said Kamilah Bunn, a resource development specialist for the District’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). “If not, take a flier and tell a friend.”

While local agencies traditionally have looked to faith-based, business and community groups to find parents to adopt foster children, the District has begun urging police officers to take in older children.

Miss Bunn’s job is to find foster and adoptive parents for some of the 2,396 children in the District foster care program.

According to CFSA, teenagers account for more than 60 percent of the minors in foster care.

About 40 percent of the 513,000 children in foster care nationwide were teenagers in 2005, according to the most recent data compiled by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.

Teenagers also tend to stay in foster care longer, often until they “age-out” when they turn 21, CFSA spokeswoman Mindy Good said. Last year, 42 percent of teens in District foster care had been in the city’s system for more than 61 months.

“Because of our youth being older, we really try to be creative,” Miss Bunn said. “Many of our children express that they want to be police officers. That’s a nice way to tie it back to reality.”

She said that many officers are former foster youth and can relate to the children and teach them discipline.

Miss Bunn began visiting the Metropolitan Police Department last fall and has recruited three officers for the 30-hour foster-training course to become parents. More officers sign up after every visit, she said.

The number of foster children in the District has declined steadily since 2001, when CFSA became a Cabinet-level agency after having been in federal court receivership for six years, Miss Good said. The percentage of teens in the system remains relatively high.

Officer Elizabeth Jones, 44, said she might want to adopt a child after hearing Miss Bunn’s presentation.

“I have no kids, but I thought I would like to get involved in it. … It touches me so much. It makes me think I could be so good for a child,” said Officer Jones, who has served in the police force for 22 years and plans to retire in a few years.

But she said she’s not ready for a teenager. Other officers voiced the same concern and questioned how much financial and emotional support CFSA would provide them.

The agency gives foster parents $30.91 a day for “regular children over 12 years old.” The amount increases by up to $10 for special-needs and handicapped children.

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