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CHICAGO, IL, NOVEMBER 17, 1997 -- For Cassaundra Wash of Country Club Hills, the desire to adopt a child began after her 32nd birthday when, in her words, she was hit by "the mommy bug."
Thatís when she turned to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, an agency that is the legal guardian of hundreds of Illinois children who are awaiting loving and stable families.

Governor Jim Edgar has proclaimed November, 1997 Adoption Awareness Month. It is a time to salute special parents like Wash who have opened their homes and their hearts to children in need, and to highlight the overwhelming need nationwide for prospective parents to provide permanent, nurturing homes for these children.

Wash has a unique perspective on that need. She is field counsel for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Servicesí Cook South region. She says the prospect of suddenly becoming a parent didnít daunt her. She had something else to worry about.

"I had no qualms about being a mom. It was handling the single life while being a single mom," said Wash, who went from a lakefront condo and sports car to single-family home and sedan.

In Illinois, children of all ages, backgrounds and abilities are waiting for parents to make a difference in their lives. These are children who need families who will help them grow and develop to their fullest potential. They are children who need love, guidance and a sense of belonging that only a family can provide.

As a result of this need, throughout the month of November, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the One Church One Child Program, the Child Care Association of Illinois, and the Adoption Information Center of Illinois have planned numerous events that will help in the recruiting of prospective adoptive parents. Any of these agencies can be contacted for additional information.

Also, during the entire month, adoption supporters are being asked to celebrate Adoption Awareness Month by wearing a white ribbon, and publishers are asked to print public service ads that seek adoptive parents in their newspapers.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is committed to finding safe and happy homes for the hundreds of children under its guardianship who are currently available for adoption. Because of a stronger emphasis on adoption and permanent placement for children, adoptions have nearly doubled between 1994, when there were 1,200 adoptions, and 1996, when 2,229 adoptions were finalized.

This year, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has set the target of tripling adoptions, a target that is achievable due to an increase in adoption personnel, and the Omnibus Permanency Initiative of 1997, a bipartisan legislative agenda that includes the tightening up of time frames to move children to permanence.

There are dozens of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services staff members--from the executive level to the front lines--who are so committed to the effort that they have adopted many of these children themselves. Wash and other staff are willing to share their experiences with the media. "I have different priorities now. My life is more structured. (Becoming a parent) has settled me down," said Wash. "I love it."

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