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N.C. Foster and Adoption System in Trouble

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RALEIGH — North Carolina's foster care and adoptionsystems are in serious trouble according to a coalition of statelegislators who want new laws passed before the situation gets worse.

Children's advocates say there just are not enough foster care andadoption workers to meet growing needs. Some legislators say it's a budget cutting trend during the last several sessionsthat's to blame for the system's deterioration. And, some lawmakers sayit would be better to spend money now to prevent problems rather thanspend more later to fix them.

Sometimes the system works, as in the case of 17-month-old BailyBilger. She spent a few months in the state foster care system, thenbecame a legal member of the Bilger family. Bill Bilger says he and hiswife Bonnie have brought 20 children into their home over the past 10years.

Unfortunately, there aren't enough families like the Bilgers to goaround. In North Carolina, there are 12,000 children looking for permanenthomes. Representative Jeanne Lucas, D-Durham County, says the system needshelp.

Some legislators say years of state belt-tightening has squeezedprecious funding out of state foster care and adoption programs. A newlegislative package is being introduced in the General Assembly that wouldincrease the number of foster care and adoption workers and set upprograms to reduce the number of children in the system.

Still, according to Bonnie Bilger, it all comes back to the familieswho are willing to help.

The foster care adoption funds bill has been introduced in the Senateand is being worked on in the House. Proponents have spelled out exactlywhat they're looking for, if the General Assembly is ready to pay for it.

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