I was recently asked, “If you could give someone considering foster care adoption one piece of advice, what would it be?” Excellent question! Today in America there are 107,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted, and yet there are also many challenges that anyone jumping into the child welfare system faces — unresponsive agencies, paperwork, system delays, and lack of post-adoption resources, to name just a few. At the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, too often we hear the frustration with what can appear to be a system that simply does not work to the advantage of parents stepping forward to adopt or the children waiting in care.
But we cannot give up. When children in foster care are permanently removed from their families of birth, we make what should be an unbreakable promise to them: we will find a family. And we will do it in a way that cherishes their childhood and their developmental needs so that they can grow and thrive within the birthright of every child – a safe and secure family of their own.
Take a moment and think about a time when, as a child, you were alone, or afraid or distraught because one of your favorite comfort items was missing or a parent was gone and you felt lost. Children in foster care waiting to be adopted experience and feel that loss in a much more profound way each and every day. Contemplating the challenges of foster care adoption is made a bit easier when we see the act of adoption, of forming a family, through the eyes of a waiting child.
Dave Thomas, our founder and an adopted child, constantly reminded us that “these children are not someone else’s responsibility, they are our responsibility.” So my one piece of advice to potential adoptive parents? Take on the responsibility and, no matter where you are in this process, commit to elevating these children by raising your voice on their behalf.
If you are experiencing unreturned calls, go up the chain and ask to speak with department managers, supervisors or directors. If the paperwork and delays seem overwhelming, reach out to a supportive network of others who have fostered or adopted and troubleshoot the issues. If there is process that you experience that needs to be fixed, share your concerns and suggestions for change with the leaders, from agency administrators to legislators, who create policy for children in care. Contact the local media, write a letter to the editor of your newspaper, or create a network of advocates for change.
And if you are ready to consider foster care adoption, reach out to the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption professional in your community who will work with you to find a child. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids is a signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption that is now in all 50 states, D.C. and four provinces in Canada and provides dedicated foster care adoption workers to focus on the children waiting for families and the parents who step forward to adopt. More than 2,300 adoptions have been finalized through this program.
Together we can all take responsibility for the 115,000 children waiting to be adopted and stop the injustice of the nearly 30,000 each year who turn age 18 and leave foster care without a family of their own. Call us at 1-800-ASK-DTFA or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s work together for the children who need us most.