By Cassandra Porter, JD
Special to Frost Illustrated
Knowing that thousands of children in Indiana will not be adopted this year breaks my heart. Each and every child deserves a secure and loving upbringing. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Children (specifically a large number of teens) all across America are waiting to be adopted. In Indiana alone, nearly three thousand children are without a mother or a father. This number demonstrates a harsh reality. Many Hoosier children yearn for a life that several of us took for granted as we grew up.
Children throughout the nation are longing for a family to call their own. Children moving in and out of foster homes are not experiencing a stable life. Enduring childhood and adolescence is tough enough without the added struggle of moving from one family to the next. A child should have the opportunity to grow up in a healthy stable environment that is attending to their needs.
Have we reached the point that children have to market themselves in order to be adopted? Some years ago in San Francisco, a boy took measures to videotape himself with fellow football players to try and get adopted by a family. There are other cases similar to this. Last year, a teenage boy in Florida pled to be adopted at a church service saying, “I’ll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.” The desperation these children and teenagers are showing has reached an all-time high. It is harrowing to think these children feel that they have to take matters into their own hands just to become a member of a family.
Imagine growing up without a sense of belonging. It is hard to fathom, but it is the truth for numerous teenagers who “age-out” of foster care. This means that children who have grown up in foster care reach the age of 18 without being adopted into a permanent, legal family. It happens all across our nation and even right here in Indiana.
The national adoption percentage has remained fairly consistent over the past 10 years, with an increase in 2012. We have to continue to make strides toward helping these children and teenagers who are waiting to be adopted, and there are more resources now than ever to aid in adoption. Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth (SAFY) is an organization that strives to improve the well-being for youth in the child welfare system. SAFY cultivates the entire adoption continuum by providing family and children services, especially post-adoptive services, which is key to a successful adoption for the child and for the family.
May is Foster Care Month. As you are grateful for your home and family, some are not so fortunate. Consider foster care. It is a very serious topic, and it may not be something you have put a lot of thought into before now. I challenge you to spend some time examining how becoming a foster parent could change your life and the life of child.
Cassandra Porter, J.D. is the Indiana executive director for SAFY (Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth). She is a recognized national spokesperson on adoption and a long- time Indiana adoptive and foster care advocate and trainer.