Foster Kids Aren’t Someone Else’s Responsibility, They’re Our Responsibility
I have always loved this quote by Dave Thomas: Kids in foster care “are not someone else’s responsibility, they are our responsibility.” YES!
Dave Thomas was the founder of Wendy’s restaurant chain and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. As an adopted person he believed in the power of adoption to change lives for children in care. In honor of National Adoption Month (November) and National Adoption Day (Saturday, Nov. 17) we asked Rita Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, to contribute a guest blog post that would help people understand why they should care about kids in foster care and what they should do about it.
Children enter foster care in the United States through no fault of their own – they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. They have experienced not only the trauma of abuse, but also the grief and loss of family separation and, too often, the stress of frequent moves or care unresponsive to their emotional and physical needs.
Number of Kids in Foster Care is Growing
After more than a decade of declining numbers of children going into care, nationally, most states are now experiencing steep increases in their foster care populations. More than 437,000 children are in foster care, representing a 2.3 percent increase over the prior reporting year. There are many reasons that are forcing a record number of families into crisis and movement into the child welfare system, most visibly the misuse of, and addiction to, opioids including heroin and prescription painkillers. Our children are suffering the consequences of family substance abuse and increasingly watch a parent die.
Additionally, in the United States, of the children now in foster care, more than 117,000 are waiting to be adopted. 117,000 children and youth have been permanently and legally separated from their family of origin and are now in substitute family, foster or institutional care, waiting for someone to step forward to provide the family they deserve. The hard reality is that too many of these children linger in care for years and leave at age 18 without the adoptive family we promised – last year more than 23,000 children aged out of care without a family to call their own. Without the safety net of a permanent family, these children are then at an elevated risk of negative outcomes, including homelessness, unemployment, early parenting, and substance abuse.
With the growth of children entering the complex child welfare system in need of quality foster care and adoptive homes, it is essential to maximize every avenue to find permanency and stability for these children. Or as Dave Thomas, our founder who was also adopted reminded us, “these children are not someone else’s responsibility, they are our responsibility.”
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Since 1992, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has successfully elevated both the awareness of this cause and the need for qualified, well-supported foster and adoptive parents, while driving programs that aggressively move children and youth out of foster care and into loving homes. For example, in our release of the 2017 National Foster Care Adoption Attitudes Survey, we found that of Americans who have never adopted but are considering it, 80% are considering foster care adoption (an increase of seven percentage points). Through our signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, more than 430 grant-funded, dedicated adoption professionals are working across North America and nearly 8,000 children and youth now have a permanent family because of their work. And this year, more employers than ever participated in the Adoption-Friendly Workplace campaign and are providing benefits to their employees who adopt.
The Foundation also entered into an unprecedented phase of growth in 2017 that will allow us to reach our goal of embedding and fully scaling Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in all 50 states and D.C. by 2028. That means that every child in our target population of older youth (children ages nine and older), children in sibling groups, children with special needs and youth who have lingered in foster care the longest, will have a specially-trained adoption recruiter using an evidence-based model working on their behalf to assure that they leave foster care with the permanent family they deserve. We are already scaled in Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, the Province of Ontario, Utah and Washington state and are in conversations with many more jurisdictions to continue moving on this path forward and toward 60,000 adoptions.
But, our work is far from done. With our eyes firmly and indefatigably fixed on a future when every child has a permanent family, no matter their age, the circumstances of their journey through the child welfare system, how they identify themselves or the borders that define them, this month and every month of the year, we should both reflect . . . and continue to act on behalf of the tens of thousands of children across North America who are waiting, simply waiting, to be adopted.
As we celebrate National Adoption Month, please remember that there is a critical need for every adult to become aware and involved. Everyone can make a difference – by learning about vulnerable children and families in your community; by fostering, adopting or mentoring a child from foster care; and by supporting the work of the hundreds of organizations across the nation working to find a home for every child in care, while supporting the families who come together through adoption.
Creating a Family Resources You Will Find Helpful
Image Credit: Alan O'Rourke,gardener41