Media thrives on sensationalism, heart wrenching stories that grab our attention. I live in a small town with few foster parents; people who know people who adopted, the children were infants or toddlers. I wanted my little portion of the world to know that adopting a teenager from foster care could be good for the child and for the parents. I know one of the local newspaper reporters so I contacted her about writing a story about our adoption journey. Natalie came to our home, spoke to the family and took photos. We talked about why we adopted (my health), why we chose older child adoption, about the week we were matched with Junior, and how few teenagers are adopted, or how few you hear about being adopted. It was a very nice article printed on September 19 with two full color photos. Natalie captured the tone I wanted to convey without sensationalism.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Family, and Children's Bureau Child Welfare Outcomes Report 2008-2011 to Congress, less than 11% of foster youth, nationwide, age out of the system. In Washington, there were 1,360 children legally free waiting to be adopted, 24% of them were age 12-18. Of the 1,568 children adopted from foster care in Washington that year, 10% were in the 12-18 age range. In 2011, 407 youth emancipated out of the foster care system in Washington State, many without a connection to a long term family to call their own.
It was because of these several hundred teens who deserve a permanent tie to a family - people who will celebrate graduations, weddings, birth of children, holidays - people who will be there to support the person during a break up, after a job is lost, after the death of a loved one. No one should go through life alone. I have rejoiced with my family during the good times and relied on them for strength during the bad. We are that rock for our son. If I can encourage just one more family to open their home to another teenager, that is one more life that has a better chance of succeeding, a greater likelihood of being happy, one more life that found permanence. Adoption is not for every teen, but there is long term foster care and guardianship. Any family that is willing to say, "You are our child, you are part of our family regardless of legal standing," will help the young adult to mature into a grounded, more secure human being. That is why I opened our home and our life to a newspaper reporter.