In recognition of National Adoption Day, I’d like to share some sobering numbers about my beloved home state of Nebraska:
In 2010 in the state of Nebraska:
- 4,301 children were in foster care.
- 1,033 of those children were waiting for placement with a permanent family.
- 275 children turned 18 and aged out of the foster care system without a permanent family (28,000 nationally).
All of this in a state that claims to be “The Good Life”.
Definitely, those numbers are quite sad. But I’d like to draw your attention to that last bullet about the 275 kids who aged out of the system. Even though it is the smallest number, it should be the most depressing.
These 275 kids are now essentially alone in the world, without the family support structure that most of us take for granted. Think about it: Where are these kids going to go next week for Thanksgiving, while we enjoy time together with our families? Who will celebrate Christmas with them? Who walks them down the aisle at their wedding? When they have good news, need support, or advice on life, who do they call or lean on?
Yes, by government standards, they are 18 year-old men and women, and therefore should be able to survive just fine in the world. However, it has been shown that kids who age out of the foster care system have a greater risk of homelessness, substance abuse, and crime than their peers who have some sort of family structure.
We can, and should do better.
Obviously, the biggest thing that can be done is to look into becoming a foster or adoptive parent – especially for older children, sibling groups, and minorities. You can learn more on the Nebraska Health & Human Services website: www.dhhs.ne.gov/adoptionkids
Look – I am not suggesting that everyone who reads this should go out and become a foster parent or adopt a child. Adoption and foster parenting are not for everyone. The adoption process can be lengthy, costly, and frustrating in several areas. Others have preconceived notions and misplaced fears over how foster and adopted kids will connect with their family. And many think that they are not a “good enough” parent to foster or adopt (but strangely, it’s okay for these “inferior” parents to screw up their biological children).
Fortunately, the good folks at the Ad Council have a humorous* response for you:
*Humorous, and also very correct. As an adoptive parent, I can assure that even though I can bake a good batch of cookies, I am miles from being a perfect parent, but my two beautiful children don’t seem to mind.
Adoption may not be for everyone. But, there are many ways that we can all help:
- In addition to (or instead of) financial contributions, many of the above organizations will gladly accept donations of time, talents, and other goods and services. For the kids who at risk for aging out of the foster care system, mentoring programs (such as Teammates) can make a huge difference. Call and ask how you can help – even if it is an hour a month.
- Call or email your U.S. Congressman and Senators and ask them to support and/or co-sponsor H.R. 4373 and S.3616,an extension of the adoption tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of 2012. This important tax credit makes adopt more affordable for many worthy families. Click here for more info about the expiration of these important credits.
- Ask your employer to add adoption benefits to their benefits package (or expand what they already have). Adoption benefits help to level the playing field between biological and adoptive parents. Common benefits include paid time off and stipends to help defray adoption expenses. Adoption benefits are a win-win for companies (relatively low-cost to implement, but are great for P.R. and recruiting) as well as employees (very family friendly).
- If you support any pro-life groups, make sure they are including support for adoption in their agenda. Because while reducing/limiting/ending abortion is a noble goal, birth mothers will still need options for unplanned pregnancies. The pro-life groups (especially here in Nebraska) carry a lot of political clout, so they need to leverage some of their might to make adoption more accessible and affordable.
If you have questions about adoption (the process, the costs, etc) and do not know where to turn for answers, feel free to shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to share our experiences and advice, as well as pay back the grear information we received when we were first starting out.