Children are our future. As they grow up, they become us, the adults who work in the factories, bakeries, local businesses, and the leaders of our nation. A truly great life is filled with love and family and those pivotal moments that we get to share with one another. As the holidays are approaching and we get busy thinking about our family get-togethers, cooking food and shopping, I ask that you take a moment to stop and think about the kids who have no family. It may be a somber thing to think about. Maybe it isn’t something you want to think about. But it is so very important.
There are 428,000 youth in the U.S. foster care system and 112,000 are waiting to be adopted. AdoptUSKids’ maintains a national photo listing service for children waiting to be adopted. Since the project launched in 2002, more than 26,000 children who were once photo listed on adoptuskids.org have been adopted and nearly 39,000 families have registered to adopt through the website. Nevertheless, older youth are disproportionally represented – approximately 43% percent of children and youth photo listed on adoptuskids.org are between 15 and 18 years old, but only 17% of those adopted have been in this age group.
Can you imagine? Knowing that because you are too old, you may never have the family that you always hoped for, that you always dreamed of? Older youth and teens have lower adoption rates than younger children, and they often wait longer to be adopted. But no matter their age, all kids need a supportive, loving home and the teenage years are a critical period for growth. While these kids may have the essential things that they need to grow up healthy, like food and a roof over their heads, that does not make up for the kind of love and support that a family can give them. Having a roof over your head doesn’t mean that these kids are being given a truly happy life, one which every child deserves.
Why Older Youth?
• All of us – and that includes older youth in foster care who are waiting to be adopted – need and want families throughout life to support us and to share important life events. Learning to drive a car, applying for higher education, and birthday and holiday celebrations are just a few examples of the times in life we need and want to share with family.
• Older youth generally wait longer to be adopted, and have lower overall adoption rates.
• On AdoptUSKids.org, roughly 43 percent of the children and youth actively photolisted are between the ages of 15 and 18 years old. (Most recent stats as of September 30, 2016)
• Families who adopt older youth are providing them with the support and stability of a family during a critical period of normal adolescent concerns and additional self-identity issues.
A Few Facts about Adopting from Foster Care:
• Adoption isn’t expensive. Most adoptions from U.S. foster care are free. The minimal costs that can be associated with them are often reimbursable. In addition, the vast majority of youth adopted from foster care are also eligible for monthly adoption assistance up to the level of the foster care rate.
• Kids are in foster care through no fault of their own. Children and youth enter foster care not because they’ve done anything wrong, but because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by the people who were supposed to care for them. Over 100,000 are waiting for the love and security that a permanent home provides.
• Many different kinds of people can adopt:
◦ In most instances, you’re eligible to adopt regardless of age, income, marital status or sexual orientation.
◦ You don’t need to own your own home, be wealthy, or have a college degree to adopt. (However, you do need to demonstrate that you can support yourself without any additional income, such as adoption assistance.)
◦ You don’t have to be a stay-at-home parent or have children already. And you don’t have to be of child-bearing age—experienced parents and empty-nesters are encouraged to adopt.
◦ In most states, you do not have to be married to adopt. Many children have been successfully adopted by single parents.
◦ Even families living outside of the United States, including military families stationed overseas, are eligible to adopt from the U.S. foster care system.
The truth is there are kids out there who need YOU. And whether you realize it or not, maybe you need them too. For more information about adoption, or about becoming an adoptive parent to a child from foster care, please visit www.adoptuskids.org or visit the campaign’s communities on Facebook and Twitter.