November is National Adoption Month. This gives those of us who have benefited from adoption an opportunity to celebrate our good fortune. I have benefited from adoption myself, having two beautiful daughters because of it. But while I am grateful for my kids every minute of every day or every month, I can’t quite celebrate “National Adoption Month” without some major caveats about the people for whom adoption hasn’t worked, or isn’t working. In fact, the original purpose of the month was to bring attention to the children currently in the foster system who are free for adoption, but “difficult to place” and for whom adoption may never happen.
A “difficult to place child” will often grow up and “age out” of foster care, which means that at 18 or perhaps 21, she will be on her own in the world without a family of her own for the material and emotional support that most young adults need to thrive.
Studies indicate that young people who age out of foster care are at greater risk for never completing high school (and are less likely than peers to attend college). They are at higher risk of homelessness, under- and unemployment, mental health problems and unplanned pregnancy. They are not only more likely than peers to be involved in crime but to be crime victims. If they marry, they suffer more marital troubles than their peers.
The reasons children don’t find permanent homes from foster care are various. Some have special needs, some are in sibling groups that want to stay together, some are simply too old or the wrong race. In some cases, any child over two is considered “difficult to place.” In some places, African American children, simply by virtue of race, are considered difficult to place.
As the National Adoption Month website explains:
“This year's…initiative targets adoption professionals by focusing on ways to recruit and retain parents for the 107,000 children and youth in foster care waiting for adoptive families.”
I find it especially interesting that one prong of the approach to recruiting and retaining families for foster-adoption focuses on working with LGBT populations of parents and prospective parents. Anecdotally, many of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered parents I know (and yes, I know parents in all of those categories) have adopted from domestic foster care. Many of them have adopted those “difficult to place” children as well, whether kids with special needs or teens or sibling groups -- or a mix of these.
It’s good to see a government agency affirming what is obvious to so many of us -- that the best interest of children requires that GLBT people should be given equal access to fostering and adoption.
This year’s focus is also on preteen (defined on the website as 8-12-year olds) placements. Have you fostered or adopted a child or children over eight? If so, weigh in and help us to demystify the experience and really honor the month.
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