I know I’m a bit on the late side, but did you know that November is National Adoption Month in the US?
As Christians, we are called to care for the widows and orphans (see James 1:27) and that might look differently for each of us. Some might volunteer to spend time with children who need a father or mother figure in their lives. Others might visit widows and offer support and comfort. Someone might contribute financially to charities that care for widows or orphans, and still others feel called to adopt.
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27 NIV
There are 415,000 children in the U.S. foster care system and 108,000 are waiting to be adopted. AdoptUSKids’ maintains a national photo listing service for children waiting to be adopted. Since the project launched in 2002, more than 25,000 children who were once photo listed on adoptuskids.org have been adopted and nearly 38,000 families have registered to adopt through the website. Nevertheless, older youth are disproportionately represented – approximately 41 percent of children and youth photo listed on adoptuskids.org are between 15 and 18 years old, but only 17 percent of those adopted have been in this age group
It comes as no surprise that older youth and teens have lower adoption rates than younger children and they often wait longer to be adopted. But no matter their age, all kids need a supportive, loving home and the teenage years are a critical period for growth.
Why Consider Older Youth When Beginning the Adoption Process?
- All of us – and that includes older youth in foster care who are waiting to be adopted – need and want families throughout life to support us and to share important life events. Learning to drive a car, applying for higher education, and birthday and holiday celebrations are just a few examples of the times in life we need and want to share with family.
- Older youth are over-represented in the foster care population, as they generally wait longer to be adopted, and have lower overall adoption rates.
- On adoptuskids.org, roughly 41 percent of the children and youth actively photo listed are between the ages of 15 and 18 years old. About 58 percent are male. (Most recent stats as of May 31, 2015)
- Families who adopt older youth, are providing them with the support and stability of a family during a critical period of normal adolescent concerns and additional self-identity issues.
Some of the Misconceptions about Adoption from Foster Care:
- Adoption is expensive. Unlike the private adoption of an infant or adopting internationally, there are virtually no costs associated with adoption from the US child welfare system. In addition, the vast majority of youth adopted from foster care are also eligible for monthly adoption assistance up to the level of the foster care rate.
- You have to be married. You do not have to be married to adopt in most states. Many children have been very successfully adopted by single parents. Single-parent families accounted for 29 percent of all adoptions from foster care in 2014 (AFCARS).
- You have to have a college degree. Having a high school diploma or college education is not required. What is important is that you are stable, flexible, and compassionate, and that you have a good sense of humor. Most importantly, you must have the support and commitment to raise a child and to be there for him throughout his life.
- You have to own a home and each child has to have their own room. You can rent your home or live in an apartment or a mobile home so long as your living situation is a stable one.
- You have to be of child-bearing age to adopt. Experienced parents and empty-nesters are encouraged to adopt. In most instances, you’re eligible to adopt regardless of age, income, marital status or sexual orientation.
- You can only adopt a child who is the same race and ethnicity as you. Federal law prohibits the delay or denial of an adoptive placement based on the race or ethnicity of a child in U.S. foster care and the prospective parent or parents who are seeking to adopt them. The only exception to this law is the adoption of Native American children where special considerations apply.
- You can’t adopt if you’re in the military. Military families stationed overseas and within the U.S. are eligible to adopt children from the U.S. foster care system.
So, if you are considering adoption, please consider the older children as well. God will lead you to the right child, even if it isn’t who you thought it would be.