AMARILLO, Texas-For Alfonso and Paula Armstrong adopting AlexZander was almost too easy.

“We heard about him on Saturday. We called on Monday. They did a home-study Monday night. We had him by Friday,” Alfonso Armstrong told the Register.

The quick and painless manner in which the Armstrongs adopted AlexZander four years ago runs against decades of conventional wisdom. Gone are the days when adoptions would take months upon months or even years.

“It's not as hard as it used to be,” said Armstrong, who is finalizing the legal work on adopting a set of twins, Adrien and Adreonna.

New government data show a 29% rise in adoptions nationwide. Last year 36,000 foster children were adopted, compared with 31,000 in 1997 and 28,000 in 1996.

Armstrong praised the Catholic Family Services of Amarillo, Texas, for their dedication. “They match up well adoption parents and biological parents. They work hard.”

Armstrong thinks, however, that more needs to be done to encourage other black families as well as Hispanic families to adopt minority children stuck in foster families.

The Deptartment of Health and Human Services announced in late September that the Catholic Family Services of Amarillo will receive a $250,000 grant to encourage adoption of minority children. Twenty four other groups received grants totaling $5.5 million.

The federal government also awarded $14.5 million to 35 states that had an increase in the adoption of foster children.

Option for Minorities

Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said, “Our vision and our partnership with states has resulted in a tremendous effort to help more children get permanent homes. We are well on the way to meeting the president's goal of doubling the number of children adopted from foster care by the year 2002.”

Melody Walker, supervisor of Maternity and Adoption Services for the Catholic Family Services in Amarillo, Texas, is looking forward to using the grant to increase minority participation in adoption.

“We'll accept any family, but we're trying to get more Hispanic and black families to adopt,” Walker told the Register.

In addition to the federal subsidies to get foster children into permanent homes, the State of Texas mandates that foster care facilities must find a family within 12 months, Walker said.

“With all these kids available for adoption, we need to find families to adopt them,” Walker said.

Adopting children with special needs — those over 6 of any sibling group, or a minority over 2 — was much easier, Walker said. “There is no cost to a family that adopts children with these special needs,” Walker told the Register.

The key to continuing the increase in adoptions, Walker said, is minority involvement.

“We're trying to find minority families for children stuck in the foster care system,” Walker told the Register.