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Waiting for a family to call their own

National Adoption Awareness Month

To research adoption awareness events, the adoption process and children available for adoption, go to www.adoptchildren.org.

We are all meant to thrive in healthy relationships. And the parent-child relationship is key to learning how to belong in a family and in a community and how to lead a full and productive life. Children, no matter how much they have been disappointed, never outgrow or give up on the need to belong and to be part of a family.

In 2014, 16,961 children were in foster care in Texas according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Annual Report and Data Book. Of those children, 6,800 are in need of a family to call their own. The goal for all children in the care of the state is to find a permanent, stable home through a kinship placement or adoption. The sooner this occurs, the better for the child.

While many people think of newborn babies when they think of adoption, the ages of children available for adoption right now may surprise you. Over 60 percent of DFPS children awaiting adoption are over the age of six. As children become pre-teens and teens, their chance of adoption decreases. In 2014, 55 percent of children under one year old were adopted compared with only 9.7 percent of children over 13. Tragically, every year children age out of the system, usually at age 18, who never found a solution to their family crisis or stability in a family they could call their own.

According to the 2014 DFPS data, 1,246 young adults emancipated or aged out of care without the support of a family they can depend on. These young people face independence without a family to anchor them. They are oftentimes behind in school and many times are at a major disadvantage in transitioning to independence. Their statistics tell a very sad tale as many become homeless or involved with the justice system.

There are an additional 3,614 teenagers between 14 and 17 who are coming up right behind them. Unless they find a family, their likelihood of facing real challenges to becoming a contributing part of society is very high.

Although gains have been made in finding adoptive homes for youth, the need has increased by an additional 35 percent over the last year. Texas DFPS and local child placing agencies, such as ACH Child and Family Services, continue to advocate and actively recruit foster and foster-to-adopt families in an effort to keep up with the demand for loving, permanent homes.

This year, DFPS focused on the question, “Why not me?” in regard to children awaiting adoption. Teens in our city, across Texas and our nation are asking this question several times a day as they experience school and other life situations alongside peers who do have families.

So we ask the question, “Why not you?”

As an individual, a family, or a business, there are ways to be a part of the solution. You can participate by spreading awareness about the need for adoptive homes, getting involved in supporting foster care and foster-to-adopt families in our community, advocating on behalf of our children in areas of public policy, or by considering adoption. To find out more, you can research adoption awareness events, the adoption process and children available for adoption at www.adoptchildren.org.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. I challenge you to pick one thing to do to support the children who are waiting for a forever family and to celebrate the families who are answering that need.

Melissa Opheim is chief operating officer at ACH Child and Family Services. To learn more about ACH Child and Family Services’ foster care and adoption programs, visit www.ACHservices.org.

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