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The 'chosen' ones

Nationally, the average age of a child waiting to find a home is 8 years old.

Once children are free to be adopted, the wait can take as long as two years.

"In New York state, more and more we're seeing children over the age of 13 coming into [foster] care sometimes for the first time," said Onondaga County Family Court Judge Martha Walsh Hood. "Sadly, many children age out of the system without ever being adopted."

Thousands of children come into [foster] care every year for various reasons including abuse, neglect or abandonment, she added. Through foster and adoption programs, such as those offered by the Onondaga County Department of Social Services, the chance for these children to either be reunified with their biological parents (this occurs about 53 percent of the time) or to find alternate nurturing homes proves increasingly hopeful, and successful.

In the past decade, about 30,000 children have been adopted throughout the country on National Adoption Day, which was held Nov. 19 this year. There were 54 adoptions from Onondaga, Lewis, Oneida and Oswego counties.

"National Adoption Day is actually my favorite day of the year," said Walsh-Hood, who spearheaded the annual event nine years ago in Onondaga County. "To me, it's actually magical because we're creating forever families on the Friday before Thanksgiving, which is a holiday season we usually spend with our own families, giving thanks for our blessings."

One couple blessed this year with a new son is the Conleys of LaFayette. Three years ago, when Wendell and JoAnn became certified foster parents, they met who would become their third child, 4-year-old Dallas. On Nov. 19, it became official.

His father said Dallas is an upbeat, enthusiastic boy who loves to learn.

"His vocabulary is excellent," Wendell said. "When he came into the program, he was very behind and he's doing quite well now. In first grade, he's made a lot of strides."

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