November is National Adoption Month, and this year's focus is on increasing awareness for teens in foster care and their need for permanency. We can take small steps in the right direction to create opportunities for teens to be adopted and connected to a stable support system. This increases their chances of improved overall health, well-being, and self-sufficiency.
When we engage with our foster teens, we learn more about who they are and how we can help them grow and thrive. The path to supporting them starts with trust. Building those relationships happens one conversation at a time.
In a letter launching this year's National Adoption Month, Aysha E. Schomburg communicates the critical importance of this topic and how we can better include our foster youth.
Posted by: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Service - Children's Bureau
2022 National Adoption Month Children's Bureau Message
by Aysha E. Schomburg, Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau
During National Adoption Month 2022, we call attention to the work professionals do, alongside youth to help them build and maintain important connections that are critical to their well-being. We prioritize not only legal permanency but recognize the importance of relational and cultural permanency. This year, our theme is Small Steps Open Doors in recognition of the powerful impact of youth engagement and the simple actions professionals can utilize to build supportive relationships with teens. We are focusing on small steps and simple actions because major change does not always require time-intensive interventions, and we recognize that many frontline child welfare workers are enduring high turnover rates and heavy caseloads. We applaud the professionals who continue to be champions for children and youth while facing these workforce challenges.
During this National Adoption Month and throughout the year, we must all be champions for youth. Kaylee, an adopted youth, described how we can do that. She expressed, “Think of all the stuff the youth has been through, what they had to do to survive. It’s not fair to the youth to only be seen for what happened to them. They need one person to believe in them. The caseworker is supposed to guide, comfort, and support the youth.”
While our first goal will always be to preserve families, our adoption efforts—when they are needed—should be centered on forming holistic connections with and for youth. Youth need to have someone on their side who believes in them. Through authentic engagement, we can build strong relationships and help them overcome challenges—and doing so can open opportunities to permanency that hadn't been seen before. By leveraging each youth's unique strengths, we can help them make meaningful connections that address their needs and their wants. We can do this one conversation at a time.
Key Facts and Statistics
The following statistics are provided by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) 2021 report:
There were over 114,000 children and youth waiting to be adopted who were at risk of aging out of foster care without permanent family connections.
- Older children are at greater risk for aging out of foster care without permanent family connections.
- More than one in five children waiting to be adopted were teens.
- Twenty-two percent of the 114,000 children waiting to be adopted were aged 13 – 17.
- Eleven percent of the 54,200 children adopted out of foster care were aged 13 - 17.
- The average age of all children waiting to be adopted was 7 1/2 years old.
- The average time in care for all children waiting to be adopted was 34 months.
- The three races or ethnicities with the largest percentages of children waiting were White (43 percent), Hispanic (23 percent), and Black or African American (21 percent).
Be a Part of Helping Foster and Adoptive Youth
This year’s theme Small Steps Open Doors is in reference to the power of what relationships with our foster youth can do to help them. Most of the children in foster care are younger and able to reunify with their families after a short time of services and resources being provided to biological families. But for other cases, adoption becomes the best option for the child.
We put an emphasis on supporting our teens during adoption month as they typically wait longer for permanency and are at a higher risk of aging out of the system. We want our foster youth to find permanency and loving, caring relationships so they can have a support system as they navigate life.
Though 18 is the legal age to be an adult, we all need caring relationships at any age to help us out in life. Our foster teens and youth are no exception to this. They are resilient people with unique perspectives on the world and have gifts they should have the resources to pursue and share.
The Importance on Adopting Foster Teens
Because foster teens are older, they are also more aware of themselves and what interests them in life. It’s an exciting time in their development and we want them to be involved in planning their permanency and life trajectory. This year’s adoption month theme, “Small Steps Open Doors” speaks to the power of the small steps we can take to make the difference in their lives.
Yes, there may be difficult conversations, and yes, parenting teens is never easy - but fostering and adopting teenagers is always worth it. Catherine Monet was adopted at 21 years old and says that her foster parents always told her she belonged, but after she was adopted, she felt like she belonged. She now advocates for foster youth and adoption and the life changing power it has.
If you feel called to be a foster parent, we encourage you to follow your instincts. We are here waiting to answer any questions you may have. We provide trainings and resources and have a community of foster parents and social workers ready to help you enter this rewarding life choice that can change a child’s life for good. Clink the link below to get more information.