I don’t know about you, but every time I think about the number of children in the United States who are in foster care and waiting to be adopted, I get restless.
The capacity seating at last week’s football frenzy at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was 68,000. We would have to put nearly 40,000 children on the laps of other children just to get all 107,000 into those seats. And frankly, if we did just that, perhaps we would garner a bit of the attention we pay to an annual football game.
These children — our children — wait in care for years, and sometimes for their entire childhood. Last year 30,000 children quietly turned 18 and left foster care – without a “seat at the game.” They aged out, emancipated, simply walked out the door. And instead of demanding change, too often we make excuses – this child is too old; that child is better off not moving again; our budget has been slashed and we just cannot do any more.
There is no more room for excuses.
Last week I had the honor of reviewing more than 70 applications of youth (most of whom had aged out of care) for a few spots in a Congressional internship program. Each of their stories was compelling, gripping, and even though they had every reason to be bitter or angry, instead they were full of hope.
I stayed up all night reading each application and words like foster care boot camp, prison, misconduct and trauma filled the pages. Their collective experiences revealed a system fraught with failure and yet their spirits showed a shared belief that change can and must happen.
Make no mistake, these amazing young adults have too often grown up in a world they viewed as an institutional nightmare, but they bring to the table the clearest and strongest voices for change.
If you find yourself sleepless tonight, join me in listening to their voices. And help us work to make foster care adoption a reality for 107,000 children. Now.