OPINION: Every child deserves a family
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 3:31 AM
Over the past year, I have spoken with many youth who are in - or just left - our foster care system. Their stories veer from inspirational to heartbreaking. The young man who transitioned from foster care to college (a triumph, without doubt) described move-in day at his dorm, when he realized he was the only person on his floor without a family helping with those boxes. Another youth explained how, after years in foster care, he and his two young siblings were adopted when he was 17. He described his new church, choir, basketball team and mom, and told me how adoption changed his life.
I'd like to thank the parents of adopted children. You've given these kids an invaluable gift - a permanent family.
However, thousands of children in Minnesota's foster care system still face every day without a permanent home. Despite the hard work of many foster parents, these kids go through their day not knowing where they will go to school next or who their friends might be.
While 80 percent of foster children return safely to their birth families or other relatives, the rest come under guardianship of the Department of Human Services. Of the more than 800 children under guardianship, about half are with families who plan to adopt them. Some are in court-ordered, long-term foster care. But too many children need permanent families immediately. Often these children are in sibling groups. Many are teenagers. A disproportionate share are children of color, who often wait longer for adoption.
At the Minnesota Department of Human Services, we believe strongly in our responsibility to find the families who can best meet children's needs. That is why we and our county partners go to extra efforts to recruit permanent families for children. We are funding new technology giving county and tribal agencies access to a web-search tool to help them find relatives of foster children who may become permanent families. We are promoting family group decision-making which brings together all of a child's support systems to make the best plan for a permanent, safe home. And, we launched a public-private adoption initiative with licensed, private adoption agencies and community organizations to provide child-specific placement services.
But when more than 300 foster children still await adoption, our work is far from over.
November is Adoption Month. As a mother, I know this Thanksgiving I will miss any child of mine not seated around our family table. As commissioner, who serves as legal guardian for children waiting for adoption, I want each of those children to have a family setting a place for them as well.
You can make a difference. Consider adopting a foster child, supporting adoptive families and reaching out to adoption organizations to offer your help. Children are counting on us - all of us.
Lucinda Jesson is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. More information at http://mn.gov/dhs/