Adoptions drop, but agency still busy

June 08, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The growing acceptance of single parenthood and better methods and increased use of birth control have cut the number of children available for adoption in the 1990s.

But there are still enough youngsters in need to keep agencies like the Children's Aid Society of Franklin County busy, its director said.

Richard L. Aveni, 63, head of the children's home and placement center on Miller Street since 1970, said the agency currently cares for 45 youngsters up to the age of 18, with 25 in foster care and 10 boys and 10 girls living in the society's Myers Memorial Home behind its main office at 255 Miller St.


The home is named for Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin F. Myers, who willed money to the society. The home takes in about 200 children each year who stay an average of one to two months, he said.

It also serves as an emergency shelter, Aveni said.

Few foster parents are willing to take in teenagers because of behavior problems, Aveni said.

"We're lucky to get 10-year-olds in foster care today," he said.

The average stay for children in the home is one to two months. Most go back to their parents. Others go to other institutions, Aveni said.

Children under 5 are easy to place, he said. Those 5 to 10 are more difficult.

The society is the only licensed adoption agency in Franklin County, but only a few children each year are adopted.

A child with at least one natural parent is not adoptable unless the parent gives up parental rights.

The society's goal is to reunite children with their natural parents, which it is able to do with about half of the children it serves, Aveni said.

"Most of the children who come here have parents and we try hard to find them," he said.

Children are referred to the society by the courts and children and youth agencies. Until the early 1980s, all of the children came from Franklin and Fulton counties. The government tightened the regulations for children's homes and many closed, Aveni said.

There were 180 residential programs in Pennsylvania in 1980. Now there are 84, he said.

Previously the society served Franklin and Fulton counties. Today it draws children from 13 Pennsylvania counties, he said.

Counties pay $84 a day for each child in the children's home. The cost is less for foster care. The society operates on a budget of about $1 million a year and has a staff of 30, Aveni said.

It opened in Franklin County in 1884.

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