Waiting for a place to call home: foster care in Idaho

Waiting for a place to call home: foster care in Idaho
BOISE - To see 21-year-old Nohemi Parke, you'd never know the hardships she's been through - but she has.

"I never planned to go to college before- and the whole adoptive process and the whole new life I got because of it- it got me here," she said sitting on a park bench on the Boise State campus.

Parke is a junior this year, with a double major in political science and Spanish.

But backup a decade ago, and life was about to come to a screeching halt for Parke and her seven brothers and sisters.

At age 12, Parke and her siblings were in Buhl, when state workers came to their school and ordered them into a van.

All eight were going into foster care and some were going to different homes.

"We only had the stuff we had at school, like our back packs and books, and the clothes on our backs," Parke said.

State foster care administrator Stephanie Miller says they try to keep siblings together, but it's not always possible.

Their first priority is to get children into a safe environment.

"Children who are placed in foster care, are placed in foster care not because of anything they have done, but because of something they have experienced and typically that experience is some sort of abuse or neglect," Miller said.

Parke's biggest fear was that she and her siblings were about to begin a life of un-ending foster care.

She had reason to worry.

On average, children who were adopted in 2010 spent 34 months, or nearly three years, in foster care.

And the older children get, the less likely they'll be adopted.

Studies show that once children reach 9, the likelihood drops significantly.

"I had my baby brother, and he was 6 months old, and I was like, I don't know if people want us for us, or because they want us for him because most people want babies," Parke said.

The children went from Buhl and Heyburn to Burley.

But at age 15, Parke's new foster home in Burley turned into an adoptive home.

And not just for Parke.

All eight siblings would be re-united under one roof permanently.

"After being adopted, it was like, yeah I get to stay here, I mean, it was awesome, my first Christmas there was amazing," she said. "It was something like I had never experienced before. Something that I'll never forget."

Parke said the Burley home is where all of the siblings finally felt grounded.

And with time, fear was replaced with confidence.

"I think my dad really grounded me with that because he was like, OK, you need to express yourself in a different way," she said.

Parke went on to get her high school diploma in Burley and moved to Boise for a college education.

She credits the husband and wife who took her in and gave her structure and love.

"I talk about my adoptive mom," she said about who she refers to as her mother. "I love her, she's amazing. I don't know, I don't really have a relationship with my birth mom anymore. I just kinda let that go. I kinda wanted to go to college and have a life of my own before I let her back into my life."

The state has solutions for waiting children.

The state's goal is to get children out of foster care within 24 months, and into full adoption.

While state and private adoption rules vary, both share baseline regulations.

Adults who are over 21, must pass a criminal background check and have personal and medical references.

The state does not place restrictions on a parent's age limit, or marital, income or home ownership status.

If you'd like to learn more about the foster or adoption process, log onto a free statewide community information and referral service through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare at www.211.idaho.gov.

You can also log onto A New Beginning Adoption Agency, a private organization that works with the state, using http://www.adoptanewbeginning.org.

If you are interested in an international adoption, try www.adoptcasi.org.

CASI is a private organization working with orphans of China and Haiti, and free birth parent services in Idaho.