It’s National Foster Care Month, which means that we need to do everything we can to pay MORE notice to the thousands upon thousands of kids who are trapped in the foster care system.
In the United States, there are over 400,000 children who are in foster care. The goal of foster care is temporary – if at all possible, children should be returned to their families.
But what many people don’t realize is that there are over 111,000 children of those 400,000 children who are legally freed for adoption and in need of permanent families. These are kids who cannot be reconnected with their biological families for a number of different reasons.
To put this in perspective, think about the Buffalo Bills stadium here in Buffalo, NY. There are 72,000 seats. Even if that stadium was filled to capacity, there still wouldn’t be enough room for every child in the foster care system who is waiting to be adopted.
You’d need to have one and a half Bills stadiums to seat all those children. How terrible is that?
Needless to say, this is a problem that needs a resolution… and fast. The fact of the matter is that kids in foster care are just KIDS who need love and attention and support.
Kids in foster care need families to love them. Kids in foster care need YOU.
Now before you decide whether or not you are a good fit to adopt an older child from foster care, there are some things you need to know.
Let’s dive into those now.
Oh, and you can WATCH the video instead of reading the post, if you prefer:
Attempts HAVE been made to reunite kids in foster care with their parents
There is a lot of confusion surrounding foster care adoption. Many people don’t realize the great effort that is put into reuniting children with their biological families.
It’s important to remember that the goal of foster care is temporary. All efforts have been made to return them to their birth family, if they can.
But sometimes, all options have been exhausted and it’s simply not possible to return a child home.
When this happens, the judge has to make a really difficult decision to either legally terminate parental rights. This is when they turn to extended birth relatives like aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
If there is no relative available or willing to take in the child, a new family can come forward and adopt them.
Some kids say the removal from home is sometimes more traumatic than the abuse they may have endured
This may be shocking to some. How can a child feel sad or traumatized from leaving an abusive, unhealthy home life? Shouldn’t they be GRATEFUL? *gasp*
You have to keep in mind that even when home life is abusive, unstable, or unhealthy, this is all the kids know. This is their home.
When a child leaves their home to enter the foster care system, they are losing everything.
They’re not just losing their parents, but they’re also might be separated from their siblings, schools, teachers friends. They may leave a rural setting for an urban setting or vice versa. This experience can be life changing and very traumatic from a child.
It can feel like the end of the world.
They’re not going to be grateful, happy, or excited. They’re going to be sad, scared and nervous.
Behavioral issues are a result of trauma not a result of bad kids
There is a misconception out there that kids in foster care are awful, bad kids who are difficult to deal with.
This is simply not the case.
Imagine a child who is just five years old. He has been removed from the only home he ever knew and the only community he was ever apart of. He is surrounded by strangers and doesn’t know who he can trust.
So far, he has slept in over 10 different beds in 10 different homes.
He doesn’t understand what’s happening. He hasn’t seen his sister in what feels like eternity.
So he acts out.
Maybe he has a tantrum. Throws, kicks, and screams.
But his behavioral issues, no matter how crazy they might seem to you, are not a result of him being a bad kid…
He doesn’t tantrum because he wants to make your life difficult or because he enjoys it.
He screams because he is hurting. Because he doesn’t know what’s going on.
He screams and kicks and throws because he is sad and because he doesn’t have the words to describe the hurt he feels inside.
This boy and the thousands of kids just like him, are just kids who have been severely traumatized by the experiences in their lives.
They are not bad kids. They are hurt kids who need loving, forever homes.
Kids in foster care are not equipped to deal with trauma in the same way that other people may be
Unfortunately, children in foster care have experienced things that no person should ever have to endure at any age, let alone as a child.
And because of this, they haven’t been taught to develop coping mechanisms. They were not necessarily nurtured as a baby and they haven’t been cared for and parented, as they grew older.
Coping with the same traumatic experiences would be difficult for any well-adjusted adult who came from a healthy home.
You can’t expect a young child to experience this sort of trauma with grace. It’s just not fair.
Around 20,000 children age out of the foster care system each year
Over 20,000 children leave the system each year without ever being adopted. They leave the system with nothing and the odds are not in their favor.
Kids who age out of the foster care system haven’t been parented; they haven’t been prepared to deal with the real world.
Even 18 year olds who do grow up in stable, healthy homes are often not yet ready to tackle the real world on their own at that young age. So it’s no wonder why so many kids who are products of the foster care system don’t do well after they age out.
To give you some statistics:
- 25% of former foster are youth are homeless within 2-4 years of aging out of the system.
- ¼ foster care youth will experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Less than 3% of former foster care youth will receive a college degree.
- 60% will be convicted of a crime.
- 71% of girls who have been through the system are pregnant by the age of 21.
These stats are daunting MOSTLY because they can be prevented.
Adopting an older child really can save a life.
If you are considering adopting an older child, education is your best asset
Adopting an older child from foster care is a complex process, much different than adopting an infant or raising a birth child. There are many moving parts involved – a history of abuse and trauma, past abuse, a complex birth family involvement.
This is why education is so important.
The Adoption STAR A-OK (adopt an older kid) program consists of two weekends of training.
The training program addresses topics like attachment issues and trauma, how to welcome your child into your family and helping them heal, and how to get kids the resources they need to thrive.
The program gives you the support, training, advocacy, and resources that you need in order to be a successful parent to an older child from the foster care system.
Adopting an older child really requires a lifelong experience of learning and growing with your child.
And, truth be told, education is equally as important after adoption as it is before adoption.
Is this for you?
If you’re considering whether or not you are the right person to adopt an older child, keep this in mind:
An older child will come into your home with more emotional baggage than physical items. Your commitment to them must be absolutely unconditional. If you have love to give, you are willing to commit to pre-adoption education, and post-adoption support, you and your child will flourish.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.