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Adoption Blog: Raising a Rainbow
Behind the Numbers on Children Waiting in Foster Care
From middle school through college, I remember teachers often used statistics as a weapon to persuade my peers and me to take, or not take, a particular action. For example, in my high school, all students were required to take a sex education course. The teacher would share with us the cold, hard facts: statistics on teen pregnancy, STDs, and sexual abuse. We spent most of the class making inappropriate jokes and attempting to conceal our giggles.
Numbers never meant much to me until I became a parent, when the numbers I encountered—as I researched vaccines, car seats, bottles, and diapers—impacted my children’s lives. From ratings to side effects to costs, I was immersed in a numbers game.
Even though I'd considered adoption as my route to parenthood when I found out my health would complicate my ability to have biological children and I eventually became a mom to two beautiful infant girls through domestic adoption, I didn’t know much about foster care until recently, mostly because I didn’t want to know. I figured those kids were someone else’s problem. Someone older, someone more experienced in parenthood, someone who had a lot of faith that they could help kids who had been taken from their biological families due to abuse or neglect.
I started an adoptive mom support group in my community a few years ago, and slowly, moms who had adopted from foster care began to join the group. They would share the joys and hardships of adopting their children from “the system.” I listened, but truth be told, I was happy with my life and, after a few years of uncertainty over my health and time spent waiting for our adoption referrals, was free of any major changes or complications. Both of our domestic infant adoptions have, proverbially speaking, gone off without a hitch. Why complicate things? Why consider bringing a child or children into our family who might “mess up” birth order and come in with a history of abuse or neglect?
One night, however, temptation got to me, and I got online and typed “waiting children” into a search engine. I clicked through a few links until there they were: the waiting kids. There were hundreds of pages of pictures and descriptions. Children of many ages, abilities, and races stared back at me. Their eyes penetrated mine. I scrolled through page after page, taking in the realty behind the statistics—Adopt Us Kids shares on their website that there are over 100,000 children free for adoption in the United States through the foster care system—and considered my own realty.
Here I was in my lovely home, sipping herbal tea, with my supportive and loving husband in the next room watching something manly (Whale Wars) on cable, and my babies sound asleep in their beautifully designed nurseries. We have so much, I remember thinking.
One hundred thousand kids without permanent homes—what does that mean? I wondered. Like many people in our society, I had grown increasingly immune to numerical data. Every cause seemed to have a staggering statistic used to motivate the public to take some sort of action in an attempt to eradicate a problem. What forced me to recognize what 100,000 children really mean was seeing their faces. Collectively, these children add up to another cause, but individually, I realized that we’re talking about individual children.
For the next weeks, as I went about my everyday life—taking care of my kids, writing, running errands, cooking dinner—I thought about those children without permanent homes. Was someone telling them, “I’m proud of you for getting a B on your spelling test!” or “I love you”? Were they being encouraged? Guided? Listened to? Loved? Was someone putting a cartoon-character bandage over their knee scrapes? Reading them a bedtime story? Practicing soccer with them in the backyard?
Today, about six months later, I still feel a sense of urgency when I view the waiting children, sometimes so overwhelming that I think, What am I waiting for? I want each of these children to have what my children have: a safe place to live, homemade dinners, vacations to the beach, playdates with friends, and a mommy and daddy who will be there through thick and thin. I want to give these kids a chance to succeed in life and, most of all, to feel secure.
These children do not know that I am looking at their precious faces and thinking, Could you be mine? What they do know is that maybe, just maybe, someone, someday, will give them a chance.
I hope, with all of my heart, that my husband and I can take the steps necessary to say, with strength and conviction, yes.
In my next blog, I'll describe those first steps.
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