Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Ugly Truth

November is national adoption month.  It is a busy month for my family as we scramble to help spread the word about foster care adoption.  As an adoptive mother, I am often approached by many genuine people looking to understand what I do and why.  It is a simple question, but has a very complex answer.  As I pondered my efforts over the last month, I realized that I might be able to help people outside my immediate community by starting a blog.  Seems like everybody I know has a blog these days and I guess maybe I am feeling a little left out.  Before adopting 5 children (after giving birth to 2), I was on the leading edge of internet usage.  I hosted bulletin boards for infertility support groups.  I bought HTML for Dummies and figured out how to design my own web-page.  After kids...well, I facebooked.  Does that count?  As I pondered this, I realized that my 11 years of experience with children in the foster care system might be helpful to others that are either new at navigating the system or have navigated the system and are struggling to keep their family together.   And so here I am.  Signing up for my 1st blog and wondering if I will have an impact on anybody...and more importantly an impact on the amazing kids in foster care waiting for their stability.  Waiting for somebody to tuck them in at night and say "I love you forever and ever."  Waiting for a parent to love them enough to attend their after school activities.  Wondering if praying for a mom and dad is a waste of their time.

I did some research today, the first day of December, on children in foster care.  This is the month we celebrate Christmas, the month we celebrate family.  The research broke my heart.  463,000 children in foster care in 2011. Can you picture 463,000 people in one space? Wait, lets put that into perspective. Invesco Field seats 76,125 people. Now imagine the size of a stadium that would seat all our foster children. That would be SIX stadiums the size of Invesco. Children of all different races, sizes, and ages.  I picture an endless sea of faces, the faces of our nation's foster children.  

Did you know that of these children, each year 30,000 of them will become "too old" for foster care?  They will be released from state care and expected to be "adults" in society.  Wow.  Imagine being 18 and told "support yourself."  Were YOU a mature adult at 18?  Did you graduate high school, move on to college and just become a GROWNUP?  I didn't.  Yes, I graduated high school and left for college.  In fact a year later, I was married.  But I sure was glad I could call mom and dad when things were tough.  I am so thankful that they would drive across state lines to help me in a pinch.  They provided unconditional love, sometimes unsolicited advice, and more often then not, a little extra spending cash.  Sometimes they would just make sure I had good tires on my car in the winter and a full tank of gas before a winter storm.  I was NOT truly self sufficient.  I can't imagine how a child survives foster care, let alone survives leaving foster care with no real family to help them.  So of these 30,000 kids that emancipate or "age out of the system" 65% have no place to live, less than 3% will go to college and 51% will be unemployed.  If that doesn't scare you enough, go to your local homeless shelter and start listening to their stories.  40% of them are ex-foster kids.  I don't know if it is true or not, but I recently heard that 70% of our inmates are ex-foster kids.  I can understand why when so many of them age out of the system with no place to live and no advanced education or job to support themselves.  They probably feel like they don't have a choice but to turn to a life of crime to survive.

Our country is in crisis with our foster kids.  Most people don't want to look at the ugly truth and even fewer people think they can change it.  But they can, and should.  More on that in future blogs.  In the meantime, let me leave you with one place you CAN help.  Make a donation to a local adoption ANYTHING.  An adoption support group (check local churches), an online photo listing of waiting children (The Adoption Exchange is my favorite) your local department of children and family services.  Do a search for "adoption" at  Just do something this holiday season that supports the fatherless children in your community.

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