2017 National Adoption Month
Children's Bureau Message
Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau
During this year's National Adoption Month, the Children's Bureau maintains its focus on and commitment to the thousands of teenagers in foster care who wait to find a permanent place to call home. Too many young people leave the foster care system at 18 or 21 years old, a time when positive role models are desperately needed, without any permanent emotional or legal connections. This November, we stress the importance of identifying, preparing, and securing lifelong connections for these teenagers as a vital part of their future achievement and overall well-being.
According to the most recent Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System report, over 110,000 children and youth in foster care are waiting to be adopted and close to 12,500 of them are between the ages of 15 and 17 years old. Our theme this year —"Teens Need Families, No Matter What"— highlights the important role child welfare agencies play in developing a targeted recruitment and response strategy for prospective adoptive parents that focuses on the needs of teens in foster care. Agencies that are intentional about actively preparing, developing, and supporting current and prospective foster and adoptive parents will be more effective at maintaining a strong pool of families who are able to adopt a teen. For example, teaching prospective adoptive parents about adolescent brain development and the effects of trauma will improve a family's overall understanding and provide the skills necessary to more effectively address the parenting challenges that may arise.
In 2014, the Children's Bureau added emphasis to the importance of continuing to build the evidence base on effective approaches to promote and support permanency for youth by funding the National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG). QIC-AG is grounded on the idea that child welfare agencies must provide a continuum of services to prospective and adoptive families to increase permanency stability, beginning when children first enter the child welfare system and continuing long after an adoption is finalized. By assuring prospective adoptive parents that they will have access to support and services when they need it, child welfare systems can help alleviate a concern that might otherwise prevent people from adopting from foster care.
This year's National Adoption Month website offers valuable resources to help child welfare agencies recruit and respond to prospective adoptive families for teens as well as how to develop and support them every step of the way. You can also explore this year's website to find tips and resources to help involve and engage youth in your permanency services and support. Be sure to also check out the Adoption Video and Adoption Podcast pages where you can listen to real-life stories about adoption from families and youth. In one story, a young woman adopted at 17 pleads, "Don't overlook us because of our age . . . All we want is the love that we should have been given all our lives."
I hope this November you will join us and do your part in promoting and supporting the adoption of teens from foster care. The lasting connections and support created through adoption can make the difference between lifelong vulnerability for young people leaving foster care or a future of resilience, support, and well-being—which is something worth celebrating all year long.