November is National Adoption Month. So each week for the month of November, I be posting some adoption related info, links, books, and shouting from the rooftops that our beautiful world sadly has many beautiful children in it without families!
Adoption is all around us whether we see it or not. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not.
Based on a recent survey, nearly 40% of American adults have considered adoption. Now if we do the math, 40% of American Adults is roughly 80 million people. I was surprised when I learned that adoption was so widely contemplated.
Today in the U.S., there are more than 423,000 kids in the Foster Care system. Of these 423,000 kids, roughly 115,000 of them are available for adoption. Or in case I’m not being clear, we have roughly 115,000 kids that, by definition, are orphans in the United States. These 115,000 children are 100% legally adoptable. If their birth parents are living, their parents’ parental rights have been terminated, leaving these children without a family to call their own. Every year more children become legally adoptable than are adopted, adding to the 115,000 waiting.
Are you ready for a really hard truth? This one stings a bit. Last year 23,000 kids aged out of the U.S. foster care system with out an adoptive family. 25% of these kids were without a high school diploma and based on statistics, only 6% of these kids will go on to complete a 2 or 4 year college degree. 40% will spend time homeless. 33% will not have enough food at some point within the year. Only 48% of them will be employed in their early 20s, and of those who are employed, they will make lower wages than their similarly aged peers. Additionally, 50% will have some sort of substance abuse problem. The conclusion that I draw from these statistics is that, despite a well-intentioned foster care system, sending an 18 year old out into the world on their own does not result in a high level of success.
I have heard far to many people respond by saying “So what?” to those statistics. To those who respond this way, I have a few questions: How many of you were truly on your own at age 18? Even if you were, how similar did your situation truly look to a foster child who lacked a permanent living situation? What things did your support system do to prepare you for the world? Do you think most children who grew up in the foster care system were equally as well prepared? And, wasn’t it nice, after you turned 18, to have a parent’s home to come to for Thanksgiving or Christmas? How about health insurance? Whose plan were you on when you were 19 or 20? I could go on and on… But the fact is that turning 18 is not the same for a foster child as it is for other kids.
My intention with the paragraphs above is to bring some clarity to the realities of those not legally adopted by the age of 18. With that said, not every Waiting Child is nearing 18 years of age. The age of Waiting Children is one of the largest and most prevalent myths about adopting from the foster care system. In truth, the average age of a Waiting Child from the U.S. foster care system is 8 years old. Allow me to be the first to say, that adoption in general is not for everyone. And similarly, adopting a teen is also certainly not for everyone, but children of all ages are in need of a family. It’s easier to naively believe that orphans are only in far off lands, but nope, many are right here in our own backyards. In my state alone there are over 1,500 kids waiting for families. How many are there in yours?
Now lets go back to those 80 million Americans who have considered adoption and how they connect with the U.S.’s Waiting Children. If just 1 out of every 500 of those individuals who considered adoption were to adopt, then every Waiting Child could have a permanent family. One out of every 500. That’s just 0.2% of the adults who have considered adoption and out of roughly 200 million total adults in the U.S., this would equate to only 0.08% of them choosing to adopt.
While the number of waiting children in the foster care system is far too large, the tiny percentage of our population that it would take to reduce that number to zero is the even more incredulous statistic in my mind.
My goal for November is simply to honor the many children in the US and elsewhere who are without families by sharing some of the facts and a few of their stories. I hope that this information might cause you to pause. Hopefully you will share something you learn with someone you know! Who knows, maybe you will spark a discussion that strikes a chord with someone out there.