Elijah Evans, a 15-year-old young man from LaFayette, Louisiana, defies every one of the many myths of adoption and foster care. Like most children, he entered foster care through no fault of his own. Tragically, he suffered abuse at the hands of the very person who was supposed to love and protect him, his biological mother.
Needing special care to address the damage left from being placed in a bathtub of scalding water as a baby, he met a nurse named Lynore who not only helped him heal, but ultimately became his mother. Today he is a thriving teenager who through his foundation, No Use for Abuse, is reaching out a loving hand to kids just like him to offer them hope and help achieving their dreams.
This Saturday, November 23, is National Adoption Day.
It is one day each year set aside to celebrate families formed through foster adoption and raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care still waiting for their forever family. This year, National Adoption Day is particularly focused on the more than 23,000 children each year who reach the age of 18 without ever finding forever families. That’s nearly 1 in 4 children from foster care who age out of the system with no place to call home, no family to support them, no table to join for Thanksgiving.
The fact is that the current U.S. foster care system is very much built to support the false premise that the older a child gets, the less they need a family. As both a daughter and a mother, my life experience has shown me that we never outgrow our need for a family. I am 41 years old and still rely on both my parents and my siblings for guidance and support in life. And my soon to be 10 year old daughter, Grace, very much looks to her dad and me to help support her in her quest to discover who she is as a person and what she wants to be one day. There is no doubt in my mind that both her courage and confidence comes directly from her knowledge that we are there to catch her when she falls. This is no less true for kids in foster care.
So what can be done to bring about change? First, more people need to help in challenging the general public’s belief that there is such a thing as an unadoptable child. My mentor and former boss, Senator Mary Landrieu, says it best, “There is no such things as unadoptable children – there are just unfound families.” And while one would think that most people would agree, a recent Harris poll sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption found that only 51% of those surveyed agreed that every child is adoptable. And an even smaller number (27%) said that they would personally consider adopting a child over 12.
Second, if you have not already, consider stepping up to play a role in the life of an older child in foster care. Those who have already answered their calling to parent these children will be the first to tell you that becoming a parent to a teenage child is no less magical than the birth of an infant. In fact, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption recently captured some of these parent’s hearts in a moving video.
And finally, speak out for these children. Tell your local, state and federal policymakers it is unacceptable that our system is putting more than 23,000 kids out on the streets to fend for themselves each year. Demand better for them than group homes. Push for more programs that are specifically designed to connect these children with permanent, loving families.
If you are already an adoptive parent, you can help too. The National Adoption Day Coalition has created the One Day Project to give hope to children waiting in foster care, and to encourage others to adopt, by sharing their stories of what their “one day” in the adoption process is like. Help us spread the message that adoption changes lives by submitting a short video about your adoption story, a few words of encouragement or why you support National Adoption Day.
For more information about the events taking place locally and foster care adoption, please visit nationaladoptionday.org.
Kathleen Strottman serves as executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). National Adoption Day is supported by a coalition that includes CCAI, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Freddie Mac Foundation, Children’s Action Network, and Alliance for Children’s Rights.
Photo Caption: NAD-CCAI-Landrieu.jpg
Sen. Mary Landrieu (third from left) joined the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, a National Adoption Day coalition member, during the New Orleans Saints game on Sunday, November 17, to celebrate families who adopt from foster care. Photo credit Michael C. Hebert.
If you have a foster care or adoption story to share, please share it with us in the comments below!