Celebrating National Adoption Month

By Rita Soronen

Every child deserves a safe, loving, and permanent family. That is the simple, yet profound motivation behind National Adoption Month. Celebrated across North America each November, this special month of awareness helps to increase the number of families considering adoption, and celebrates the joys of creating families through foster care adoption.

National Adoption Month not only gives us an elevated opportunity to raise our voices in celebration of all that has been accomplished to further reforms in the child welfare system, but it should also push us to take a moment to pause and reflect on our most vulnerable and at-risk children. Children who continue to suffer at the hands of the very adults who should be keeping them safe. Children who dream of a mom or dad to call their own, while they endure often transient foster care and an unknown future. Children who can only see as far as the day when they escape the system and are on their own.

Today, there are more than 425,000 in the United States foster care system. They entered foster care through no fault of their own, as victims of child abuse, neglect or abandonment and, too often, they linger in the very system created to assure them a safe and permanent home. And now, with the opioid and heroin epidemic national crisis, states are seeing an unprecedented number of children moving into foster care. For nearly a quarter of the children in foster care today, the abuse they have suffered has been so egregious and the families so unable or unwilling to provide a safe home that the courts have permanently and legally severed all parental rights to their children. 110,000 children are now waiting for a family to step forward and adopt.

The typical child waiting to be adopted in the United States is eight years old, moves three or more times in foster care, may have been separated from siblings, and will wait five years or more to be adopted. Tragically, more than 20,000 youth each year leave the system at age 18 or 21 without the love and support that a forever family provides.

During the past 25 years, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has successfully increased both the awareness of this cause and the need for qualified, well-supported foster and adoptive parents, while implementing programs that move children to adoption. For example, in the release of the 2017 National Foster Care Adoption Attitudes Survey, we found that of Americans who have never adopted but are considering it, 80% are considering foster care adoption (an increase of seven percentage points). Through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, 7,000 children and youth now have a permanent family. And this year, more employers than ever participated in the Adoption-Friendly Workplace campaign, and are providing benefits to their employees who adopt.

I am also excited to share that the Foundation entered into an unprecedented phase of growth that will allow us to reach our goal of embedding and fully scaling Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in all 50 states and D.C. by 2028. That means that every child in our target population of older youth, children in sibling groups, children with special needs and youth who have lingered in foster care the longest – those most at risk of leaving foster care without a family - will have a specially-trained adoption recruiter using an evidence-based model working on their behalf to assure that they have every opportunity for the family they deserve.

But, our work is far from done. With our eyes firmly and indefatigably fixed on a future when every child has a permanent family, no matter their age, how they identify themselves or the borders that define them, this month and every month of the year, we should both reflect . . . and continue to act on behalf of the 110,000 children in the United States waiting, simply waiting, to be adopted.

As we celebrate every child during National Adoption Month, please remember that there is a critical need for all Americans to become aware and involved in the foster care adoption conversation. Everyone can make a difference – by fostering, adopting, mentoring or advocating for children in foster care and by supporting the work of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Foundation. Our founder, Dave Thomas, reminded us each and every day that “these children are not someone else’s responsibility – they are our responsibility.”

Rita Soronen a member of Path2Parenthood’s Adoption Advisory Council, and President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national nonprofit public charity dedicated exclusively to finding permanent homes for the more than 110,000 children waiting in North America’s foster care systems. Created by Wendy’s® founder Dave Thomas who was adopted, the Foundation implements evidence-based, results-driven national service programs, foster care adoption awareness campaigns and innovative grantmaking. The Foundation’s step-by-step adoption guide, Finding Forever Families, helps to clarify terminology, responds to frequently asked questions and guides potential adoptive parents through ten steps to adopt. It is available for free by mail or download. And for more ways you can support foster care adoption through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, visit www.davethomasfoundation.org.

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