November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month. While all adoption-related issues are important, the particular focus of this month is the adoption of children currently in foster care. Six local Department of Social Service agencies have partnered with Extra Special Parents through a Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) grant to help facilitate timely adoptions.
According to most child development experts, a permanent family is essential for a child to grow into healthy, functioning, and productive member of society. A permanent family connects a child to caring friends and relatives who assist them to achieve academically, attain positive physical and mental health outcomes, and develop healthy relationships and social skills – all which are necessary to survive in our society. Timely adoption provides a permanent family when children are not able to return to their biological families.
The percentage of youth who are aging out of the foster care system without achieving family permanency is growing at an alarming rate. Between 2002 and 2011, the percentage of youth who aged out of foster care increased from seven percent to eleven percent nationwide. In Virginia, about 32 percent of youth age out of foster care each year without ever obtaining membership in a permanent family. About 800 children in Virginia are waiting for permanent families.
One of our adoptive parents stated, “The most rewarding outcome of our foster care experience is that we were able to adopt, Sam, a young man with special needs and a big personality. Sam was nine when he came into our care as a foster child. DSS was looking for a permanent home for Sam and Extra Special Parents recognized our family as a possible match. Our family has been enriched through this adoption.”
To learn more about becoming a foster parent or adoptive parent, please contact your local department of social services or Extra Special Parents at 804-714-1776.
Toni Collins is the assistant director of adoption services with Extra Special Parents in Richmond.