Proctorville family honored as #039;Angels in Adoption#039;

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 2, 2004

PROCTORVILLE - Arden and Diana Brooks basically became foster parents by accident, but the couple might as well be heaven sent as far as U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland is concerned.

Strickland honored the Brooks Tuesday as the 2003 "Angels in Adoption"

for providing a foster home for nine children.

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The Brooks, or Mamaw and Papaw as the children call them, are in the process of adopting five of those children, all siblings who range from the ages of 4 to 15.

"The Brooks represent a family that is willing to reach out to help children, take them into their home and make them a part of the family," Strickland said. "There is nothing more that an individual or couple can do than give a caring home to children that have need for parents or a loving family."

Throughout the Brooks' 38 years of marriage, they have always put

children first, whether their own or someone elses. Providing a stable home to the five adoptive children that have been in foster care six times in four states is important to the family

"We get a lot of rewards. These are good kids," Arden said. "It is amazing when you give them the right environment, they really thrive."

"You just have to let them know that someone really cares," Diana said.

However, becoming foster parents was something that happened purely by accident, Arden said. Both the Huntington natives were influenced by their own family lives. Diane was from a large family, while Arden had a difficult childhood of his own.

After raising their two children, Diane retired and decided she wanted to start her own in-home daycare about 15 years ago.

A few years ago, four children were left at the daycare because the mother never came to pick them up. The Brooks found out that the mother was arrested, and that social services was ready to come get the children and put them into a group home.

The Brooks were determined not to let that happen.

The family began the proper procedures and became certified foster parents in November of 2000.

While the family keeps growing, the house has as well. They have continued to add-on and Arden's antique car hobby has taken a backseat to the growing family.

Even the family vacation has grown. In 2002, the Brooks hit Myrtle Beach with a group of nearly 20.

As they wait for the adoption process to be completed, they are excited to be able to provide a home to all the children.

"We have got a lot more out of this than we have put into it," Arden said. "I worked hard to make a living when our children were young. So I missed out on a lot of things. Now I know all there is to know about dance classes, cheerleading and everything else."

The family is most proud of the achievements that the children have been able to make in school. The oldest girl received a president's scholar award in junior high and the others have also made remarkable improvements, Diana said.

Congressman Strickland said he has been tremendously impressed with the numerous adoptive and foster families in Lawrence County.

"I think it is important that the people who take in children are recognized for what the do. Angels in Adoption is a way to focus attention and help educate those who are potential foster parents or potential adoptive parents who want to enrich anyone's lives or make their lives better for needy kids."

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute honors people from across the country each year with the "Angels in Adoption" award. A total of 160 families were honored in this year's program, with nearly 600 being recognized since 1999.

CCAI is a non-profit organization focusing on raising awareness about foster children and orphans around the world. In the U.S. alone, more than 550,000 children are in the foster care system with tens of thousands available for adoption.