An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place and circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break –
Ancient Chinese Proverb
On any given day in the United States over 100,000 children currently wait for their forever families. 20% of these children wait five years are more to be adopted. 30,000 of them will “age out” of the system having never had a family to call their own. While 1 in 3 Americans have talked about adoption, only 2% have ever adopted.
In 2015, I was given a first hand opportunity to work with children in the foster care system. I was employed by St. Ann’s Home and School in Methuen, MA. The home was a group facility with a number of children who were in the “system”. I remember the first few weeks working there, coming home in tears. My coworkers and supervisors cared a great deal for these children, like their own. Many of my “kids” endeared themselves to me in such a way that even today I think of them. As a mom, I wanted to bring them home with me. So many of just needed someone to show them that they were loved and that there were people in their lives who wouldn’t leave regardless of the circumstances.
The average age of a child in the foster care system is 10-11 years old. I remember a social worker once telling me that if the child hadn’t been place by 11 years old the odds were that they would never find a permanent home. Teenagers have the lowest overall adoption rate only being 5% of adoptions in 2015. As the mom of 3 teenagers, I can understand the apprehension about fostering or adopting a teenager. I’ve heard everything from “these kids have other issues on top of just regular teenage issues.” and while the fact that they have experienced hardships is true, I don’t think it should disqualify or discourage families from opening their homes and hearts to these kids.
There are many reasons I believe in fostering and fostering to adopt. These kids need you! America is a country with tremendous opportunity for success but there are children who may never know a life without fear or chaos. They deserve a stable family and the ability to not just survive but thrive! There aren’t nearly enough homes for these children. After the age of 6, it’s extremely challenging to place older children and sibling groups. While residential homes like St. Ann’s, provide safety, basic needs and structure, they cannot provide a family atmosphere. The longer the child stays in a residential home, the more institutionalized they become. Let’s face it, living with 12-20 other children in dorm like arrangements isn’t normal unless you are in college or the military! These children need to feel the belonging that comes with being placed with a family.
I personally believe the foster system is a mission field. Foster parenting changes entire generations not just the child you are caring for. It will change their children and their children’s children, breaking what is often a cycle. If 1 family out of every 3 churches adopted from the foster care system, there would be no more orphans in the United States.
Maybe you are like me right now and you know in your heart that you cannot foster/adopt right now. There are still ways you can make a difference in the lives of these children. I wanted to share a few of these with you. (Information from http://www.adoptuskids.org)
- Become a court appointed special advocate or CASA.As a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer, you’re empowered by the courts to advocate on behalf of a child in foster care. You don’t have to be a lawyer or social worker.
The work done by CASA volunteers involves gathering information from everyone in a child’s life, including parents, relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers, and others. This information will then be used to inform judges of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them.
To be a CASA volunteer, you simply need to:
- Pass a background check
- Participate in a 30-hour pre-service training course
- Stay with a case until it’s closed (approximately 1.5 years on average)
The National CASA Association has more information on becoming a CASA volunteer.
2. Mentor a child in foster care.
Becoming a mentor or tutor for a child in foster care is a great way to make the difference of a lifetime for children in need of permanency. There are lots of different ways to mentor children of all ages.
- Help a teen in foster care succeed in college through Foster Care to Success.
- Volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
- Find mentoring opportunities in your area by using the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory to contact a local agency.
3. Offer free photography or video services.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, your photography and videography talents are a priceless gift that can go a long way toward helping children in foster care. Adoption agencies around the country are in need of high quality photos and videos of children that can be shared with prospective families.
Use the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory to find agencies where you live that could benefit from your services. You can also connect with the Heart Gallery of America program, which organizes expos and galas with framed portraits of children available for adoption.
4. Become a Respite Provider. Respite care workers provide parents and other caregivers with short-term child care services that offer temporary relief, improve family stability, and reduce the risk of abuse or neglect. Respite can be planned or offered during emergencies or times of crisis. Respite may be available to foster, kinship, adoptive, and birth families in need of support. Talk with your caseworker or use the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory to find local agencies in your state that can connect you with information on how to become a respite care provider where you live.
5. Fundraise or Donate Supplies to Foster Care Agencies.
Many children in foster care have very little to call their own. Everything from back-to-school supplies, toys, and suitcases are needed by foster care organizations around the country. Whatever you can do will go a long way, whether it’s donating money or supplies directly to an organization in your area or organizing a fundraising or donation drive.
Use the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory to find a local agency to partner with to help children in foster care.
A great organization that I have raised funds with in the past is Together We Rise. Having seen kids in the foster care system arrive at St. Ann’s with their belongings in trash bags broke my heart. Together We Rise provides “Sweet Cases”, new duffle bags filled with essentials like toiletries, blankets, and a teddy bear. They even have an amazing program for foster kids who are entering college for the first time where they have help and a family setting to help them move into their dorm rooms. Find out more at http://www.togetherwerise.org
You can make a difference in the life of a child. Consider foster care or adoption.
It will change your life as well!