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Recruiting Parents for Kids in Desperate Need

November 18, 2001|KARIMA A. HAYNES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three-year-old Cassie was born prematurely in a garage to a drug-addicted and mentally ill mother whose own poor health caused her baby to suffer from dehydration, infection and drug-withdrawal symptoms.

The 4-pound newborn was taken by paramedics to a local hospital's intensive care unit, where she lay silently in a crib, too weak to cry.

As Cassie fought for her life, Los Angeles County social workers found foster parents Carolyn and Bruce Jones of Valencia through the Child SHARE Program, a Glendale-based nonprofit agency that recruits foster and adoptive parents from religious congregations in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Child SHARE is one of the beneficiaries of the Holiday Campaign of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund. Agencies in the five-county Southern California region helped by the campaign provide a range of services for children and youths, including aid for the mentally and physically disabled and programs to prevent drug abuse and violence.

Since its founding in 1985, Child SHARE has placed 1,200 children with foster or adoptive families, including 200 children this year, agency officials said.

Child SHARE helps build congregation-based teams of foster parents, adoptive parents, respite families, baby-sitters and volunteers to care for children and to support families. Many of the children, who range in age from newborn to 18 years, have mental, physical and emotional disabilities.

"We go into congregations and tell them that it is not all right for them to ignore the fact that kids may never have a real home," Executive Director Joanne R. Feldmeth said. "This is a responsibility of the faith community as well as a responsibility of the larger community."

The Joneses embraced the opportunity to become foster parents to Cassie after her monthlong stay in the hospital and to nurse her through several health crises, including surgery to reposition her skull after the bones around the "soft spot" improperly fused.

As Cassie recovered and grew stronger, the Joneses decided to apply for adoption to keep her from enduring endless foster placements.

Cassie's biological relatives relinquished their rights, and her adoption into the Jones family was finalized last year. She now lives with her parents; two adoptive sisters, Samantha, 7, and Miranda, 5; and an adoptive brother, Jessey, 22 months.

"I feel truly blessed that I can watch these children play together and be a family," Carolyn Jones said. "Without Child SHARE, they would have just jumped from foster home to foster home."

The Holiday Campaign was established last year after The Times merged with Tribune Co. It is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, which includes The Times' long-running Summer Camp Program.

The McCormick Tribune Foundation will match the first $500,000 in donations at 50 cents on the dollar, and The Times will absorb all administrative costs.

THE TIMES HOLIDAY CAMPAIGN

Tax deductible donations: Please do not send cash. Credit card donations can be made at: http://www.latimes.

com/holidaycampaign. All donations are tax deductible. Contributions of $25 or more will be acknowledged in the Los Angeles Times unless a donor requests otherwise. For more information about the Holiday Campaign call (800) 528-4637 (LA TIMES), Ext. 75480.

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