Today concludes National Adoption Awareness Month. Throughout November, several organizations and agencies launched campaigns and initiatives to help spread awareness about the need to get more children into safe and permanent placements with families. This month, Fostering Change for Children began a series of trainings that educate ambivalent parents and youth in care about the advantages of taking the next steps toward adoption. We expect that by working with all stakeholders in the process, we can increase permanency rates and enhance our organization’s mission.
This month, we invited our Children’s Corps members to share some of their adoption stories with us. The success of achieving permanency for families through adoption in such a narrow period of time for most of our members is a real feat. The reality of the situation is that the average length of stay for youth in care is about 26.7 months -that’s more than two years without a permanent home for 400,000 youth in care. Often the process of getting a child into a permanent placement, is stalled by paper work, incomplete files, caseworker turnover and other factors that exist naturally in a flawed system accounting for the 114,000 children in care awaiting adoption, currently.
If you attended our Spring into Action Social this May, you witnessed first hand, the passion and energy Kim Spadaro, author of our first story, has for the work she does. If you didn’t attend our last one, feel free to join us at our Holiday Social next week. Here is an account of one of her experiences in the field.
A two year old enters care with her two older sisters. They are placed together into a non-kinship foster home. Their mother visits consistently and is planning to have them returned to her care. This was 11 years ago. By the time I got the case in 2012, these three sisters have gone through countless foster homes, traumatizing experiences, and are all separated. Instead of being returned to their mother’s care, they have been lingering in foster care for over a decade. Their mother was not successful in planning for her girls and unfortunately was deported a few years ago. The two oldest girls never wanted to be adopted because of their strong loyalty to their mother and their mistrust of foster parents. They are going to age out of the system in a few years. The younger sister, now 13 years old, will be adopted next month. She has been through at least 10 foster homes, some kinship and some non-kinship. She has gone into a crisis residence center in order to stabilize her moods. She has suffered through serious trauma in her life and she has come out on top. In only a few short weeks, she will be adopted by a foster parent who she truly loves and loves her in return. She has found a family that has accepted her and her flaws and works towards coping with the loss of her mother. This family encourages maintaining the bond between sisters. This girl finally found the right fit for her and after 11 years, finally has achieved permanency. I have only worked with this family for a few short months, but I will never forget the smile on this girl’s face when I walked into her home and told her that there is an adoption date scheduled and she will permanently be a part of this family.
Our next story comes from Jackie Edwards, a Children’s Corps member who has been in the field just three months.
There are usually two sides to every story, two perspectives if you will. Occasionally these perspectives are essentially opposites of each other as is often the case in foster care. For example, there is nothing much more heartbreaking than seeing a day old infant completely abandoned by his parents. It is easy to question how they could leave him. “Didn’t they love him?” “Don’t they care about him at all?” This is where the other perspective comes in and with that, a story about one of my clients who was in that very position.
Baby Boy L. was born full term in a hospital and his parents left him there, knowing it was a safe haven and their beautiful son would be safe and well cared for. At two days old Baby Boy L. went home to loving parents who were able to provide for him and make sure he was safe and healthy. He went home to an entire extended family that immediately fell in love with him, a family that would move heaven and earth to keep him in their lives. Now at nearly 18 months, Baby Boy L. is living with the only mom he has ever known, the woman who has raised him his entire life. He is happy and thriving at home and all because a woman who was struggling in her own life knew she would not be able to care for him the way he would need her to. “Is this story heartbreaking?” Absolutely, but it is also inspiring. The beginning of Baby Boy L.’s life was rocky, but today he is being adopted into his own loving family.
The children in foster care have some of the most horrific stories you can possibly imagine. From neglect and inadequate guardianship to serious physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, our children have experienced more than most ever would (or should) in their short lifetimes and it is there that we must begin the process of finding a way to get them home. Some cases are so horrific that from day one you know that the children will never be able to go home again and so you must find a new home, a new family for them.
Imagine for example, three children sit at home with their mother on a cool winter evening and suddenly, their estranged father breaks in and brutally murders their mother. Now you have situation where three children are without their mother and their father in jail because of it. Where do the kids go? How can they ever cope with the fact that their mother is gone, at the hands of their father, viciously, in their presence? It was sudden, unexpected and violent, but their lives must go on. Despite everything the children are lucky enough to have grandparents who are living close by and who are willing and able to take the children in. They kids will be able to stay together with their family, who understands what they are going through and can support them through everything. The children will be adopted by the very same people who were helping to raise them before the tragedy.
The world of foster care is often surrounded by heartbreak and chaos and it is easy to miss the beauty. There are foster parents who open their home to give a child a safe place to sleep, who drive their kids all over the city for appointments and visits, and who love the children placed in their home as if they were their own. But most of all, it is an incredibly inspiring experience to speak to foster parents who feel that they are simply called to adopt.
Kim, Jackie and several of our other corps members will be at our next event to share plenty more stories with you.