WARREN – Northeast Ohio Adoption Services faced a series of obstacles in 2021 but was able to avoid layoffs, says its executive director, Cheryl Tarantino.
In March 2020, the agency was on target to have one of its best years. In addition, the nonprofit had just completed an office expansion for training space.
Then COVID-19 hit and in-person training was canceled.
Northeast Ohio Adoption Services, which employs 35, converted to virtual training but had the burden of an empty office and training room for quite some time.
NOAS recently resumed some in-person training, but virtual training has become the expectation of most moving forward, Tarantino says.
Recruiting foster and adoptive families came to a halt during the pandemic and is still a problem. Most adoption agencies in the state are still dealing with a lack of new foster and adoptive families, Tarantino says.
The lack of revenue posed another problem, as NOAS had to cancel fundraisers and events for over a year. The agency relies on fundraising to meet its budget since it does not charge fees to foster and adoptive families.
“We did try a few virtual fundraisers, but they only brought in one-third of the dollars compared to live events,” Tarantino says.
NOAS is a provider of Bridges, a post-emancipation support program that extends housing and other services to eligible young adults who leave foster care on or after their 18th birthday but who are not yet 21.
During the last year, the state did not allow young adults to exit the program because of the pandemic. As a result, NOAS’ caseload increased by 40%, Tarantino says.
In response to the statewide crisis of children entering foster care in alarming numbers, NOAS plans to expand initiatives to recruit and support more foster and adoptive families, she says.
The agency also plans to expand supportive services for families both before and after adoption.