Corporations help in finding homes for hard-to-place children

They are children of mixed parental heritage, or members of a sibling group. They may be older children who have been in the foster-care system for several years. Or they may have emotional or developmental disabilities.

But these children all have one thing in common: They need a home.

Children awaiting adoption who have special needs are often the most difficult to place. In New York City alone, most of the nearly 5,000 children awaiting adoption have special needs. And the numbers of such children are on the rise.

''One Company, One Kid,'' a program recently established by Cornell University's Family Life Development Center, aims to help these children by encouraging businesses and corporations to find and assist employee-families to adopt special-needs children.

''Often people want to adopt these children but feel they cannot afford another older child or one who may need special care. We want them to know there is a variety of support services available to them,'' says Janice Shindler, a ''One Company, One Kid'' program specialist.

One type of support becoming more common is provided by corporations themselves, in the form of fringe-benefit packages. These include maternity and paternity leave and cost reimbursements for adoptions.

Such support can make a significant difference in the number of children finding homes. IBM was one of the first corporations to expand its benefit packages to cover adoption costs. According to IBM spokesman Brian Ditzler, employees currently adopt several hundred children each year - more than 3,000 children in all, since the reimbursement benefits were begun more than a decade ago.

There are advantages for the corporations as well. Hallmark Cards, which began adoption reimbursements four years ago, has found it an economical way for the corporation to continue its tradition of financial support to organizations and agencies serving children in need. ''Making adoption reimbursements directly to employees is also seen as one way of giving choice in where our charitable contributions are made,'' says Hallmark spokesman Tim Crouch.

But even among those companies already providing adoption reimbursements, there can be an information gap concerning the numbers of children still available for adoption. Most companies originated their adoption reimbursement programs on the concept of infant adoption, which generally meant healthy, white infants, according to Janice Shindler. That there are comparatively few such infants available today has left some companies with the impression that there are now few adoptable children.

''This is certainly not the case,'' Ms. Shindler says. ''There are plenty of children needing homes. We want to spread that word.''

The ''One Company, One Kid'' program is underwritten by a grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. It operates through Cornell University's Family Life Development Center, which provides information, training, and technical assistance to organizations and agencies in New York State concerned with strengthening families.

Recruiting will begin with corporations in the New York City area and will expand across the state, and later, the nation.

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