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He saw the seven digits on a foster-parent recruitment poster hanging in his son's New York pediatrician's office in 2002 and punched them in his phone without much thought.

A year later, curiosity pushed him to make the call. Today, people tell him and his wife, Justine, how lucky it was that he did.

People say it when they hear about Isabella, born on the steps of a church on a freezing morning to a 36-year-old mother from Haiti who "left her for dead," Justine said.

How lucky it is that the Ferrers took in the recovering infant in 2004 and made a new life for her when they moved to Martinez in 2007.

"People always say to us she is very lucky," Justine said. "John always says 'We're the lucky ones.' "

Fostering led the Ferrers to adopt Isabella in 2004 and another infant, Ciara, in 2006. They say the joy they found in adoption lasts year-round but is especially poignant in November, which is National Adoption Month.

"There are so many kids in the U.S. that need homes," Justine said. "It's a crying shame."

In Georgia alone, there are 13,965 children in foster care, and 2,370 of those are eligible for adoption, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dan Almeter, the regional adoption coordinator for the state adoption unit for Richmond County, said his office has made a push to keep children out of foster care by placing at-risk children with relatives instead of strangers.

This makes it easier for the children who do enter the state system to move through the adoption process within the goal of 24 months, he said.

With about 130 children in foster care in Richmond County, 46 of those are eligible for adoption.

Most of the children entering foster care locally who become eligible are separated from their parents because of emotional or physical abuse, neglect, or a lack of stable housing, Almeter said.

THE FERRER'S second adopted child, Ciara, entered the system based on derivative neglect, in which her other siblings had been neglected or abused before her.

Justine watched as Ciara's birth mother signed her daughter away at a year old, the most "heartbreaking thing a mother could do," she said.

Ciara, 4, and Isabella, 6, know what struggles made up their past but what love surrounds their lives today.

They look at the Ferrers' three biological children, ages 18 to 25, and call them family.

They run around their Martinez living room, begging for Daddy's attention and running into his arms as Justine looks on.

Both girls know about their birth parents, and Justine said they keep open lines of communication when the families cooperate.


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