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FESTIVAL LETS PROSPECTIVE ADOPTEES SWING, TWIRL, RUN INTO FAMILIES' HEARTS

Veda Thompkins came to the annual Adoption Festival on Saturday looking for a son. She didn't have to look far. He found her.

"I was looking around and he just came up to me and started talking to me," Thompkins excitedly told a social worker. "I'm in love."Several adoption agencies in metropolitan Detroit sponsored the fourth annual festival, hoping to place more than 200 children with adoptive families.

The children played sports, got their faces painted and listened to rap groups between meetings with prospective parents. Most of the children ranged in age from 2 to 15, but there were a few infants.

The idea is to create an environment in which prospective parents and children can meet in a less formal setting than an office, said John Kraphol, a social worker at the Ennis Center for Children Inc. in Detroit.

Kraphol, who was adopted as an infant, said the participating agencies expect to place more than the 30 children placed at the 1991 festival because the event was better organized this year.

Potential adoptive parents at the festival must go through the same screening procedure as parents who apply through traditional avenues. It takes about a year before an adoption is formally approved by probate court.

Such criteria as a person's income, the size of the home and their medical condition are checked, and character references are taken.

The object of Thompkins' new-found affection was a 4-year-old named Jason. As she talked to the social worker, Jason ran to her side, handed Thompkins his bag of potato chips and ran back to the slide to play with the other children.

Thompkins, who has three adopted daughters and an adopted son, said she came to the festival looking for a companion for her son.

"This is great," the Detroit woman said. "They don't feel picked over or rejected because everyone is just having a good time."

Harold White of Detroit brought his 3-year-old daughter, Jaquelyn. White and his wife adopted Jaquelyn when she was 4 months old and now they're looking for an infant boy.

"But that's not definite," the Detroit man said as he eyed 20-month-old Crystal. "We'll take anything."

As potential parents strolled by, 14-year-old Leonardo hung out by the swings with two friends. He said he would like to find someone to be his parents but hadn't talked to anyone yet.

"I like sports. And I like spelling," he said in a barely audible voice when asked what he would tell prospective parents.

"I want a family," he said a little louder.