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Bush, Willis Promote Adoption

July 23, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Actor Bruce Willis and the White House teamed up Tuesday to recruit more people to adopt the tens of thousands of often older, emotionally bruised children languishing in foster care.

President Bush unveiled a new public service television advertisement filmed by Willis and first lady Laura Bush to encourage would-be parents to look to the rolls of foster children to build their families.

Willis, a longtime Bush supporter, has agreed to serve as a national spokesman for children in foster care.

``We all know Bruce was a tough guy in the movies. The truth of the matter is he has a tender heart _ he has a tender heart for children,″ Bush said.

After reviewing the ad, Bush quipped, ``Looks like one of those Oscar-winning performances to me.″

Bush also was announcing a new Web site aimed at matching would-be parents with children nationwide who are available for adoption.

The adoption event allows Bush to appeal to his voter base of Christian conservatives by promoting an alternative to abortion and to burnish his credentials as a ``compassionate conservative″ by extending a government hand to at-risk children.

As such, Bush was also highlighting government incentives for adoption, such as tax credits and increased funding for post-adoption family support, that he has backed during his presidency.

In its first year, the new federally sponsored site will feature photographs and profiles of over 6,500 waiting children from 46 states, as well as a database of approved adoptive families, according to the White House.

Of the approximately 565,000 American children in foster care, there were 134,000 children of all ages available for adoption between April and September 2000, usually because their parents lost custody due to abuse or neglect. Of them, about 50,000 were found permanent homes, according to the most recent period for which data were available.

Children spend an average of four years in foster care, the White House said.

Most are not healthy infants. Rather, many have special circumstances that can make adoption difficult, such as their age, ethnicity, emotional needs resulting from abuse, physical disabilities or brothers and sisters that don’t want to be separated.

The Web site, created by the National Adoption Center with funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, aims to overcome some of those obstacles by widening the search nationwide to ``reduce the geographic barriers and waiting time needed to connect children from across the country with adoptive families.″

Prospective parents also will be able to communicate interactively over the site with other families and state adoption specialists to get the answers they need about the process.

``A lot of people don’t know that adoption is not just for babies,″ said Gloria Hochman, director of communications for the National Adoption Center. ``What we have found over the years is once families know these children exist, they really do come forth to adopt them.″

The PSA will advertise the Web site, as well as a toll-free number where interested families can get information and a referral.

The site will replace a similar one that has been advertising available children since 1995.

The numbers of waiting children have been growing steadily in recent years, due in part to a new federal law that pushes judges to act more quickly in terminating parent rights and gives new incentives for families to adopt.

The National Adoption Center says more than 650 children have found adoptive families as a result of their site, with about 900 families each year getting information at the site that leads them to adopt a child found elsewhere.

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On the Net:

National Adoption Center: http://www.adoptuskids.org

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