A Spot at the Table: Truths About Foster Care Adoption
Last November I had the privilege of doing a writing workshop at Camelot Community Care for homeless and unaccompanied youth in the Tampa Bay area. I met some of the most beautiful, thoughtful, and intelligent young people I have ever taught who were working so desperately hard to overcome life’s challenges. Their life stories and innate talent were deeper and more strikingly compelling than those of any young people with whom I had worked. Having lived through such hardships and having fought so hard to survive, they had the ability to write from a vantage point few others could emulate. Yet powerful as their life stories were, equally heartbreaking was the realization of how little they believed in themselves. This was sadly understandable given all they had been through, and the uncertainty of their futures. You see, they represent an alarming statistic that nobody wants to talk about – almost all of these wonderful teens and young adults that I spent the afternoon with had aged out of the foster care system. This is how they came to find themselves alone and homeless, unthinkable, frightening circumstances at any time of they year, but especially cruel approaching the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
It is now one year later and not much has changed for these kids. Society now sees them as ‘young adults of legal age,’ and they are on their own. They put up good defenses and try to brave the world, but when they let their guards down you see that very vulnerable souls and minds of compelling sharpness lie behind their tough exteriors. It is with these sweet faces and hearts in mind that I implore you to make this post go viral.
November is National Adoption Awareness month, and an opportunity to spread the word about the 400,000 children currently in foster care in the United States, and the 250,000 children who enter U.S. foster care annually. Of these youth in foster care, there are currently 102,000 kids eligible for and awaiting adoption, 30 percent of whom are between the ages of 11 and 17. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) also notes that many of the children in foster care are eight years old and up, are part of a sibling group, and their predominant ethnicities are Caucasian (40%), African American (28%), and Hispanic (22%).
They all share a common dream, something so many kids take for granted; the chance to sit around a kitchen table with food to eat and people who care, to look at a family photo and see they belong, to go to bed at night feeling warm and safe. Sadly, many of these children’s dreams will never be realized because there are so many common misconceptions about adoption. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption notes, “Nearly 81.5 million Americans have considered adopting a child. If just one in 500 of these adults adopted, every child waiting in foster care would have a permanent family. But foster care adoption is often misunderstood, preventing children from finding forever families.”