“I always questioned if I was ready to adopt and then realized no child was ready to be an orphan.” ~ Unknown
There are more than 100,000 children and youth involved with U.S. foster care waiting for permanent families. November is National Adoption Month and this year's theme, "We Never Outgrow the Need for Family" highlights older youth waiting for adoption. Creating lifelong connections for these young people is critical to helping them prepare and succeed as they enter adulthood.
This year, National Adoption Month focuses on our nation's population of older youth in foster care who need loving, permanent families. According to the FY 2014 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System Report, there were 415,000 children/ youth in foster care on September 30, 2014, and 108,000 of these children/youth were waiting to be adopted. Of all the children/youth waiting to be adopted, about 9% are between the ages of 15–18. Adolescence is a time in life where supportive adults and caring role models are needed in critical ways, yet older youth in foster care often face significant barriers to permanency. This November, we want to stress the importance of creating lifelong connections for our young people, before they age out, so they have the stability and support they need as they transition to adulthood and throughout their lives.
During this year’s National Adoption Month webinar held on October 6, Mary Lee, Esq. shared her adoption story. Mary first came into foster care around age 12. By age 16, Mary was considered “unadoptable” and on track to age out. One week before her 18th birthday, she was adopted. As an adolescent, Mary knew she wanted the permanence of a family and recalls the years before her adoption was finalized as being filled with uncertainty and fear of what the future might hold. Like Mary, older youth adopted from foster care are more likely to finish high school, go to college, and be more emotionally secure than their peers who remain in, or age out of foster care without permanent connections. There are over 23,000 youth that emancipate from foster care each year without the benefit of a planned permanent family living arrangement. Adoptive parents provide the guidance and support that an emerging adult needs to enroll in college or find a job. They will be there for important life events, from graduation to a first job promotion, marriage or the birth of a child.
All prospective parents must complete a home study and an educational component before adopting a child. The home study is conducted by a social worker who interviews you and your family over several weeks. The social worker is not looking for perfection. The home study is not a test. The social worker is interested in why you chose adoption, your knowledge about adoption, how you have dealt with life's struggles, and how you plan to deal with adoption or cultural issues as they arise. The home study process can be an excellent opportunity for self-reflection, clarification, and growth. The educational component is also a legal requirement.
Many older youth in foster care have experienced some trauma. Supporting their social and emotional well-being is vital before and after adoption finalization. Understanding the stages of adolescent development can help inform realistic expectations for healthy growth. Youth are resilient and, with the right supports, can become strong and successful adults.
Older youth who are adopted from foster care are more likely to finish high school, go to college, and be more emotionally secure than their peers who remain in, or age out of foster care. Studies of youth who have aged out or emancipated from foster care show that up to 50 percent of these youth become homeless and have limited access to employment or higher education. That's why finding permanent, loving families for this population is of the utmost importance. Adoptive parents provide the essential guidance youth need to successfully navigate a strong path to independence.*
For more information about becoming a licensed foster/adoption parent in Humboldt County or Rural Nevada, please contact Lori Nichols LSW at 1-888-423-2659 or 775-684-1967. Check out the website A Child’s Journey Home at www.achildsjourneyhome.com for more information about Adoption and Fostering in Nevada. Or Kimberly Schmeling, Social Work Supervisor at 475 E. Haskell St. Ste 7, Wmca, NV, phone 775-623-6555. Also visit the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services website at www.dcfs.nv.gov
- Information from Child Welfare Gateway and used with permission
This column is not intended to be a substitute for any medical or legal advice.