Thursday, November 15, 2007

Finding Families For Waiting Children


There are 114,000 children in the USA who are waiting to be adopted.
Beginning in 1997, the Adoption And Safe Families Act begin providing cash incentives for states to find adoptive homes for children in foster care. The idea was to keep children from bouncing around in foster care for years and years. The act says that states should make a reasonable effort to try to reunite children with their parents, but if things don't seem to be working out, and if a child has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months, the efforts to reunite parent and child should be dropped, and the efforts should be turned to finding a new permanent home for the child.
The idea is a good one... because children shouldn't be expected to stay in foster care for their entire lives, if their parents are unwilling or unable to make serious efforts to fulfill the requirements to get their kids back.
The problem is in finding homes for all of the children who have become eligible for adoption.
Even though our society has progressed a lot as far as how we think about adoption, it is still thought of, by a lot of people, as a last choice. The majority of people do not even consider adopting a child, opting instead to concieve children. If a couple finds that they are unable to concieve, they may decide to adopt, but even then, many couples prefer to adopt a baby or toddler, paying great amounts of money to form an adoption plan with a pregnant mother, or looking to orphanages in other countries. The truth is that most people picture themselves forming a "perfect" family with their new baby, and it doesn't occur to them to consider adopting an older child who is in foster care and is waiting for a home.

One popular way of trying to reach out to families who might consider adopting a waiting child is making photolistings and other information about children public. The most wellknown prograom like this is called Wednesday's Child. Originally, every Wednesday a different child in foster care would be featured in newspapers or on news programs. The child's picture would be shown, along with information about her age, hobbies and interests, disposition, etc. The hope was that someone, possibly someone who hadn't previously even thought about adoption, would see a child's picture and decide that the child belonged with them. Now, with the Internet, Wednesday's Child has it's own website, where people can search by gender, age, race, and number of siblings to find prospective children to adopt.
AdoptUsKids is another site where people can search for the "perfect" child to join their family. The site was created to draw attention to the many, many US children waiting for homes, so that perhaps people willing to adopt children from other countries would also consider children from the USA. At this site, people can also search by the level of disability they'd be willing to accept in a child, and the state they'd want a child to be from. (It is possible to adopt children in foster care in states other than where you live, but in many cases the children are hoping to stay in their own state to be close to siblings, friends and other relatives.)
There are several other photolistings, and many states and regions also have their own photolisting sites for local children. Adopt.org has a list of links to sites like this.
Some states use other methods to try to match children with families. Some states have fashion shows, where children in foster care act as the models, and prospective adoptive parents view the show. Afterwards, prospective parents can talk to children who have caught their interest, and possibly later ask about adoption. Other states host parties or picnics where prospective parents can mingle with children eligible for adoption. These methods are controversial, because the children often know that they are being "looked at" for adoption, and they may be extremely hurt and disappointed if they do not get "chosen."
Probably the easiest way for a child and parent to come together is through foster care. While there are lots of people who become foster parents while being certain that they want to provide this service to foster children without becoming adoptive parents, there are also many foster parents who bond so much with certain children that, when the children become eligible for adoption, the foster parents are certain they want to be the ones to be the child's "forever family."
Other foster parents get into foster parenting specifically because they want to adopt a child. Through fost-adopt programs, they can become foster parents to children who are not yet eligible for adoption, but who probably will become eligible in the near future. The agreement here is that, if the foster placement works out, when the child becomes eligible for adoption the foster parents will adopt him, but in the meantime nothing is set in stone.
It would be wonderful if every single family in the USA could somehow make a place in their homes and hearts for one waiting child... but that probably won't happen! However, hopefully someday more and more people will be willing to consider adopting waiting children! Until then, they'll continue to wait... all 114,000 of them!

1 comment:

rachel said...

Your blog is very informative! I'm talking about adoption on my blog this month, too. But I don't write the in-depth posts that you do! If even one child found a home through my small efforts it would be so worth it!