By: J. Chevont’e Alexander
“Every young person deserves the chance to learn and grow under the care of a loving family. Across our Nation, adoptive families give that chance to over a million children and teenagers. During National Adoption Month, we celebrate these families and stand alongside every child still looking for the warmth and stability of a permanent home.”
~ United States President Barack Obama (President Proclamation National Adoption Month 2013)
Meet Mark. Mark came into foster care in 2008, and loves the idea of being adopted—but doesn’t think it will happen for him because of his age. Mark is in a foster home where he is stable right now. He is keeping the idea of adoption in the back of his mind because he knows the importance of finding a permanent family.
At 17 years old, and recent high school graduate, Mark loves to sing and serenades people upon request and will perform in front of large crowds when given the chance. He is full of personality and is a ladies’ man. He loves to flirt and is described by his female friends as smooth and charming. He gets along well with his peers and has a great sense of humor. He enjoys large gatherings, social functions, attending church, and being a social butterfly. Mark will be turning 18 in December, and wants to be adopted.
And, you can help! Help find Mark a permanent home.
Meet Mark – Children’s Home Society of Virginia
November is National Adoption Month. It is the time of the year to raise awareness about the urgent need for adoptive families and youth in foster care, just like Mark. With approximately 400,000 children in foster care in the United States and nearly 1,300 in Virginia alone, the need is great to find adoptive families, and give these children a safe, nurturing, and loving home to go to.
According to the Children’s Bureau, under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the first major effort to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in the foster care system happened in 1976 in Massachusetts. Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care. In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. And, in 1995, President Clinton expanded the awareness week to the entire month of November.
Since then, the need and urgency to find adoptive homes is great. Virginia is one of the slowest states (ranked 49th out of 50) to respond to children waiting to be adopted.
“Since the top of 2013 in the city of Richmond’s Foster Care program, there are currently 21 eligible youth available for adoption,” says Cheryl Williams, Program Manager for Richmond’s Department of Social Services, Unification and Permanency Program. “Since January, 15 adoptions have been finalized, so finding adoptive homes for these children is very important.”
VIDEO: Children in Foster Care
Filling the Need
There are several agencies within Richmond that assist with finding placement and adoptive homes for children. Children’s Home Society of Virginia (CHS) is one of Virginia’s oldest adoption agencies, and is located in the city. Since its charter by the Virginia General Assembly in 1900, CHS has been guided by the fundamental belief that every child deserves a home. To date, CHS has successfully facilitated placement of more than 12,500 children into safe and permanent homes.
Children’s Home Society of Virginia President and CEO, Nadine Marsh-Carter knows firsthand the need to find homes for these children, and has two adoptive children of her own.
“More than 40% of children in our system are of color.” comments Marsh-Carter. “We need families that do not see color or background to come adopt these children, and give them great homes and a future that was intended for them.”
It has been said that at least 30% of individuals think about adoption at some time. But, due to inaccurate information and the lingering myths, many are turned off from something that proves to be otherwise.
Myth: Adoption is expensive.
Reality: Foster care adoption normally costs little or nothing.
Myth: You have to be married to adopt.
Reality: Experienced parents and empty-nesters are encouraged to adopt.
Fact: More than 50% of adoptive parents are single women.
Myth: You have to own a home to adopt.
Reality: You don’t need to own your own home, be young, wealthy, or a stay-at-home parent.
Myth: You have to be a certain age to adopt.
Reality: In most instances, you’re eligible to adopt regardless of age, income, marital status, or sexual orientation.
What is definitely true is that foster children need a loving, nurturing, and forgiving home to call home. The goal is to find adoptive parents and families who are able to provide a reasonable lifestyle for a child, and provide them with the opportunity to be forever family.
It’s Never Too Late
Children age out of the public foster care system between 18 and 21. They may stay in care between 18 and 21 provided they meet criteria outlined by the state Department of Social Services, such as staying in school and/or having a job. Age 21 is the maximum age. After age 18, children can voluntarily leave care as well—and they have a 3-month grace period to return to care. Many children at age 18 are not fully equipped or prepared for an independent adult life, especially without family support.
When a child ages out of the foster care system, not only does the child suffer, but the community suffers as a whole as well. In 2011, 11 percent of the children (over 26,000) exiting foster care aged out of the system. Research has shown that teens aging out of the system are highly likely as adults to experience homelessness, poor health, unemployment, incarceration, and other poor outcomes.
1 of 4 children never adopted are incarcerated within at least two years after exiting the system.
1 in 5 children never adopted are homeless within two years after exiting the system.
1 in 6 children never adopted never graduate from high school.
How You Can Help
The idea of adoption starts with accurate education and awareness. The problem of finding adoptive homes is fixable, and with agencies like Children’s Home Society of Virginia, individuals and families can be trained and helped to become family and future permanent homes for these children.
Step up to the plate, answer the call of duty, and find out what you can do to make a difference in a child’s life. Give an opportunity to a child to be able to call family…forever.
For more information on how you can advocate for kids in foster homes, how you can adopt and foster care in Virginia, please visit the Virginia Department of Social Services, www.dss.virginia.gov.