Internet Matches Families, Children Computer System Aids Special Needs Children

Article excerpt

A popular notion among adoption agencies is that there are no unwanted children, just unfound families. Now agencies are taking a high-tech approach to help foster children and adoptive families find each other.

The Texas Adoption Resource Exchange has become the first state agency nationwide to go on-line encouraging the adoption of foster children by putting on the Internet lists of adoptable children with special needs.

Such children are at least 2 years old and belong to a racial or ethnic minority; have been professionally diagnosed with a physical, mental or emotional disability; or belong to a sibling group needing to be placed together with a family.

Since the new program's kickoff in May, the group has listed 69 children on the Internet and is working to get that number up to 200.

"We're promoting our existence so a wider audience can look us up," said Stewart Davis of the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services public affairs division, which prepares photos and brief descriptions of the children for the listings. "The cost is simply the time it takes to post a child - about 15 minutes."

Last year, 791 Texas children were placed in adoptive homes. Last month, 19 children were placed, and 11 of those placements had a direct relation to the group's Internet program.

When the group's adoption program began in 1980, mounds of paperwork were required for the time-consuming task of matching families with children. The electronic mail method has improved efficiency by ending the need for "matching parties," where several caseworkers would meet and try to match families and children by exchanging printed information. More Calls Coming

The program also produces a monthly photo-listing booklet of children waiting for adoption. …