Thanks to ABC Family’s new series The Fosters for sponsoring this post. Click here to see more of the discussion. Also, watch the series premiere of The Fosters on Monday, June 3 at 9/8c only on ABC Family.
May is Foster Care Month. This was something that didn’t make it onto my radar before, but now that I am an adoptive parent, I find myself chatting with many parents who are foster parents presently or have adopted through the foster care system. We bond because a lot of my kids’ struggles are similar to their kids’ struggles. We discuss strategies to do better, be better, help our kids better. Sometimes, we just brag on how amazing our kids are. Oh, you know we do it. Because our kids? Had everything against them and are still awesome.
Now that I have met so many foster parents, I wish that I could go back and rethink our decision making process when we were deciding our adoption path four years ago. Not that I would trade my two daughters for any other two kids in the whole world, but I wish I had known more about fostering. Because right now, there is a serious lack of foster families in our country, and along with it a lack of families willing to adopt out of the foster care system.
Currently, there are more than 380,000 children in foster care, and the numbers of families willing to foster are declining, so some of these children are placed in group homes. The figure I found said it’s about eight percent, which means that approximately 30,000 kids are in group care as opposed to family care. My older daughter spent just six months in group care, and I know how it hurt her heart. I know the ramifications of sending a child to a group home. It isn’t fair to children, and we need to do our best to fix this. The answer, of course, is more foster families, as well as more families willing to adopt out of the foster care system.
There are many issues that dissuade families from fostering or adopting out of the foster care system. I understand some of them, as they were the issues we were most afraid of, such as welcoming a child into our home and being unable to complete the adoption because the child ends up being ineligible. We were afraid that the issues a child might have following the termination of parental rights might be too big for us to handle. If people are thinking these things, then I get it. No one can get over those hurdles but the family considering foster care.
There are, however, hurdles that can be removed by changing laws and policies. What troubles me most is that there are families who are ready and willing who don’t now if they will be accepted as a foster or adoptive family. For many families who are not traditional mom and dad families, for those in the LGBT community in particular, it is either prohibited or unclear whether they could foster and adopt in the majority of states. There are people out there who want to be family to a kid who needs one, who are willing to take on needs that are pretty big, and they don’t start the process because they’re not sure if their time and heart investment into it will pan out, or if they will be denied.
With more than 380,000 children in the foster care system, there is an immense and urgent need for foster families, and for those who are willing to adopt out of foster care. More than 115,000 are eligible for adoption, but 40% of children waiting for a permanent family will wait more than three years. More than 27,000 kids age out of the system annually without a permanent family. It is a tragedy, and it brings me to tears whenever I think about it.
I want to see more children in families. I want whatever is standing in the way of potential foster families of all sorts to be removed. Kids need families. Traditional or not, mom-and-dad or dad-and-dad or mom-and-mom, a loving, committed family is always the best option for a child. It’s time to stand up for the right of a child to have a family, and to find more families for children. I know that they’re out there; many of them just need to know that their love for a child and their capable hearts and hands will be well received and encouraged to welcome a child into their home.