ESCANABA - November is National Adoption Month and, in recognition of this, one Upper Peninsula organization reminds people of the many adoption and foster care services available here in Delta County and around the U.P.
The group U.P. Kids began in 1899 as Good Will Farm, which was an orphanage in the Copper Country. The facility provided a home and school to children from around the U.P.
The group, whose main office is in Houghton, changed its name to U.P. Kids in 2012. However, the organization's mission remains the same, according to Nisha Coolman, who serves as a post-adoption resource specialist and foster care licensing specialist for U.P. Kids, and provides service to Delta, Menominee, Dickinson, Schoolcraft and Iron counties.
"About a year ago, we expanded throughout the U.P. and now our programs are (growing)," said Coolman, of U.P. Kids. "We do post-adoption services. We can actually license foster homes and adoptive homes, so not only we can set you up with foster care maybe leading to adoption, but later if you have needs, we can also assist with that."
One of the major services U.P. Kids provides is getting people signed up for relative care, as Coolman noted many families are struggling right now.
"You can get licensed for foster care and only do relative care," she said. "That way, say your grandkids, niece or nephew, or your little cousins end up in the foster care system later, you are already licensed, so they'll be placed with you."
Coolman said this process makes things a lot quicker and easier than going through the process after the fact.
"If you only do relative care, the Department of Human Services will not call you with every kid that needs a placement," she said. "But that way, should those kids need a place to go, you're already there."
Coolman reminds those interested in serving as a foster family they do not necessarily have to become a permanent family.
"There is a huge need for foster families. Say for nine months, a kid just needs a place to go while their family works on their issues. They want to make sure that they have a place to go that that family recognizes is temporary and their role is to act as go-betweens and support the biological family," she said. "There's another area (where) adoption is needed - there are children that cannot go back home and I think those have to be defined. People need to recognize those are two separate roles."
Coming up Dec. 6 at 6 p.m., U.P. Kids will host a training at its 1612 Ludington St. office on children and trauma. The training is geared toward foster and adoptive parents, but all parents whose children have suffered trauma are welcome, as are workers who want to know more about recognizing and handling trauma in children.
Coolman said anyone considering foster care or adoption, or those who may be facing an issue with a child they have adopted, can always call U.P. Kids.