By Gaetane Borders
I know it’s a bit early to talk about this. But before you know it, November will be upon us. Did you know that November is National Adoption month here in the United States. Although this cause is important everyday of the year, this is the month set aside to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care. Years ago, I worked as the Clinical Director of a foster care agency. Most days I felt overwhelmed about the swelling numbers of children for which I had to find appropriate foster homes. At times it felt like there were not enough people willing to open up their homes to children in need. I soon burned out, and left to make an impact in the lives of children in a different way. Yet, looking at the recent statistics, nothing has changed.
Currently, there are over 510,00 children in the foster care system. While blacks account for 15% of U.S. children, they make up 32% of those in foster care, according to a May 2008 report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a private research group. Other reports suggest that black children in foster care, especially older ones, are less likely than white ones to be adopted. Reports also suggest that Caucasian children in foster care are four times more likely to be reunified with their families than black children. This means that the majority of African American children will remain in foster care unless they are adopted by a loving family.
To address these statistics, a new federally funded ad campaign is looking to get more black foster children adopted. Television commercials will feature black parents and children in settings such as parks and schools. Similar ads will appear on radio and in newspaper. The ads were developed by the Advertising Council, which produces public service announcements and AdoptUsKids, a non-profit that helps connect foster children with adoptive . This is the first time African-Americans have been targeted, according to project officials.
The theme for adoption month this year is, "You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent." I would certainly agree with this motto. I would add, however, that although you don’t have to be perfect, you have to be willing to help a child heal. Entering foster care and being removed from your parents’ custody is incredibly traumatic for children. This, I assume, is why so many people choose to adopt infants, as they assume that babies will not be cognizant of the separation. Yet, teens and younger adolescents are in desperate need of loving homes as well. So, I encourage those who are thinking if adopting to be open-minded!
Knowing how to maneuver the adoption system can be daunting. However, here are some tips on the steps you will need to take if you choose to embark on this fulfilling journey:
ü Make a Plan. One of the most significant steps you will take is to establish your general attitudes and philosophies about adoption.
ü Search for an agency in your area. Agencies typically offer free informational meetings on the type of adoption placements they offer.
ü Complete a Home Study. Once you apply to adopt a child, the laws of all states require that you undergo a homestudy. Homestudies are conducted to evaluate your desire and commitment to adopt, to explore the reasons why you want to adopt, to evaluate you as a prospective parent, and to provide education about adoption.
ü Finding a child. Once the home study is completed, you are ready to begin the placement process — the time when a specific child is identified for your family.
Deciding to adopt a child is certainly a big decision, and one that requires much introspection. You may find that you have a desire to open your home to a child who needs one. AND…you will likely discover that it is that child that brings happiness into your home!
Gaétane F. Borders, Ed.S.
President, Peas In Their Pods
Gaétane is a certified School Psychologist who works closely with the inner-city youth and their parents. She is an advocate of children’s rights and strives to help parent achieve healthy, harmonious, and emotionally stable environments for their children. Her blog, The Parenting Pundit, offers an open and honest view of parenting. In addition, as President of Peas Gaétane helps to spread awareness about the epidemic of missing children in the African American community.