On any given day there are more than half-million children in foster care in the United States, whose connection to a safe, loving, and nurturing family is too often lost. During the fiscal year 2009-2010 there were more than 600,000 youth being served in the nations foster care system, 120,000 who were adoptable. Fifty-nine percent were children of color and the average number of placements were three, creating multiple school changes (K-12) and 50% suffered from chronic medical problems. In addition, 28,000 aged out of care in 2010. Of the 28,000 young adults, 22% became homeless after aging out compared to 2.6% of the general population of 18-24 year olds in that given year.1
Youth who live in institutional settings are at greater risk of developing physical, emotional, and behavioral problems that can lead to poor outcomes and are less likely to find a permanent home than those who live in foster families. The experience of being part of a family helps children who may have suffered from abuse and neglect understand what it means to be part of a safe and supportive home. This experience makes it easier for children to maintain connections with people important to them, and less likely to become homeless.
Currently an estimated two million Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals are interested in adoption despite the uneven legal landscape which leaves their children without rights and protections extended to heterosexual parents, because state policies and practices prevent them from doing so. 2 The reality is there is a need for homes for children currently waiting for adoption, but not just any home, a safe and loving family. Is it not the goal of our adoption and foster care systems to provide all children with permanent, stable homes with loving and supportive parents? Is it not the goal of the federal government to eradicate homelessness?
The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S. 1770) will help to ensure that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status no longer keeps children waiting for families because safe and loving families are being turned away. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S. 1770) will also reduce the number of young adults who age out of care and become homeless. All of our nation’s children deserve to be a part of a permanent, loving family.
Call to Action: Help eliminate the growing number of homeless young adults aging out of the child welfare system. Contact your United States Senator and urge them to cosponsor the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (S. 1770). All of our nation’s children need and deserve a strong, supportive and loving family.
1 Adoption and Foster Care Reporting System, U.S. Dep’t of Heath and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, AFCARS report (AFCARS), 2009. available at – http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/tar/report18.htm
2 Adoption By Lesbians and Gays: A National Survey of Adoption Agency,Policies, Practices, and Attitudes, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2009. available at – http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/whowe/Lesbian%20and%20Gay%20Adoption%20Report_final.doc
(Red Zone Solutions works with organizations advocating for special populations in the child welfare system and homeless youth. Red Zone Solutions has worked with many agencies in New Jersey, and Pennsylvania providing trainings and strategic program development to help improve youth services, housing and advocacy programs.)