The Good Neighbor Awards recognize REALTORSŪ who've made an extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of life in their communities through volunteer work. Five winners will receive $10,000 grants for their cause. The 2009 deadline will be May 22.
2008 Good Neighbor Finalists Announced
Good Neighbor Finalist Helps Match Adoptive Families With Waiting Children
Pam Kiker, CRS, The Kiker Team, Keller Williams Realty, Englewood, Colo.
Kiker is chair of The Adoption Exchange—an organization that recruits families to adopt older children who are difficult to place because they have a history of abuse or neglect.
"The majority of these children have been taken from their families because they were abused," says Kiker, who has volunteered with The Adoption Exchange for 15 years. "So they have emotional issues and are very, very hard to find permament homes for."
These children are also typically older—the average age is 8. To make their odds against being adopted even greater, they may also have disabilities or health problems or have siblings who are also waiting for adoption.
The Adoption Exchange has a comparatively high placement rate, due in large part to holding "matching" parties for waiting children and prospective families and also due to heavy publicity—including a Web site and TV segments titled "Wednesdays Child" that profile children waiting to be adopted.
The children are typically waiting in foster care after their biological parents lost custody. Some children in foster care are eventually reunited with their families; some are adopted by their foster parents. The Adoption Exchange's specialty is helping the rest—"the children who have no one," says Kiker, adding that there are 119,000 of these children in the U.S. who are patiently waiting for a "forever family."
Kiker was the driving force behind establishing the organization’s post-adoptive services program, which is designed to reduce the number of failed adoptions. "These kids are very challenging. The adoptive families' hearts are in the right place, but they need someone to turn to when there are problems."
The program trains caseworkers and supports new parents with education, support groups, childcare services, and small grants to cover unexpected expenses. The success of this program helped The Adoption Exchange win contracts to provide post-adoptive services to the adoption programs for the states of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah.
"The challenge is to provide guidance, support, and education to the families of these children so that their placement will be a 'forever home'," says Kiker, who has three grown biological children and also became the legal guardian of a 15-year-old girl after her mother died.
The Adoption Exchange, which has placed more than 430 children since 2004, spends approximately $2,500 to place each child, compared with $20,000 per year it estimates it costs taxpayers for each child in state foster care.
"Our support means long-term opportunities for children not to go from house to house, but to have what they dearly want, a permanent home of their own," says Kiker.