Over the past few weeks, foster care has garnered much attention in the North Carolina legislature, with multiple bills that provide greater supports and privileges for children in foster care and for their foster families. While we absolutely should continue to improve the system, we should also be working harder to ensure that the over 2,000 children in North Carolina waiting to be adopted from foster care find loving families of their own.
The foster care system provides an indispensable refuge for children who’ve been removed from unsafe homes, abusive parents and other unhealthy environments. But foster care isn’t meant to be a permanent place for these children.
Unfortunately, for some people who could provide loving and supportive homes to deserving children, a number of common myths can make the prospect more intimidating than it should be.
We can work to erase these misperceptions by learning some important facts about foster care adoption and helping others understand that all children, no matter their age or background, truly are adoptable.
1Nearly half of Americans incorrectly believe that children end up in foster care because of their own juvenile delinquency. In fact, children enter the system due to parental abuse or neglect, not through any fault of their own.
2Adoptive parents don’t need to be young, married couples. Almost 1 in 4 adopted children live with a parent 55 years or older, and 28 percent of adoptive children live in single-parent homes. It doesn’t matter if adoptive parents already have children or have never had children. What matters is their willingness to commit to parenthood.
3A child’s biological parent can’t “reclaim” him after he has been adopted. Almost half of people considering foster care adoption incorrectly believe that a child’s biological parent can regain custody post-adoption. But adoptive parents have the same rights and responsibilities and protections as parents whose children were born to them. This also means children who have been adopted have all the emotional, social, legal and familial benefits of biological children.
4 Foster care adoption is not expensive. In fact, it can cost little to nothing, depending on the type of adoption, the agency through which you work, the state in which you adopt, travel fees and attorney fees. Subsidies are often available when adopting, and many employers also offer adoption benefits.
Every one of us can work to end the myth that some children are too troublesome to deserve a family by helping correct some of these misperceptions that our friends, family and community members may have about foster care adoption, to help.
Across the country, 81.5 million individuals or couples have considered adoption. Please consider it again. Becoming an adoptive parent or family is a transformative experience that doesn’t just enrich a child’s life but can fill an entire adoptive family’s life with unconditional love, joy and purpose.
Children in foster care aren’t unadoptable, they just aren’t adopted – and if just 1 out of every 500 adults who has considered adoption made the commitment to become an adoptive parent, every child waiting for a permanent home in North Carolina and across the country would have one.
Rita Soronen is the president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.