A young man on the verge of adulthood who is enthusiastic about sports and music but struggles with authority. A teenage single mom who lovingly cares for her newborn child. A kind, patient, young boy with disabilities who doesn’t know who to trust. A confused teenager who was in and out of treatment and wants to maintain regular contact with his biological family. Five siblings with a variety of special needs who need to stay together.
These are the children waiting for adoptive families. These are the children in our foster care system who have had rough starts in life but are looking for new beginnings. These are the children who need the love and guidance of families who will be there for them for a lifetime. We can all play a part in making that happen.
Currently 499 children are waiting in the foster care system for families to adopt them immediately. Almost 74 percent are between the ages of six and eighteen years old. More than 58 percent are siblings who need to be adopted together. 54 percent are children of color.
As commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, I am the guardian of these children until they find permanent families. Together with our county, tribal and nonprofit partners, we need families for them – not just any families but the families who can best meet children’s needs.
We need families who can support the young man’s love of sports by bringing him to basketball games and cheering him on at football games, yet provide the guidance and structure he needs to also focus on forming healthy relationships. We need families who can embrace the teenage mother and her young child, teaching her how to be a mother while giving her the support she needs as a teenager. We need families who will take the time to listen and advocate for their young son with disabilities. We need families who are strong enough to support a youth’s wish to spend time with his biological family. We need families who have the energy and structure to raise five children who suddenly become part of their home. We need families who understand children need support services and are willing to fight for them to ensure adoptions are successful.
These are not easy undertakings. Raising children is challenging as well as rewarding. Raising children who have struggled early in life and not had the advantages of other children often are even more demanding. But many of you have not shied away from these challenges. Last year, families adopted 686 children from the Minnesota foster care system. That’s nearly 150 more children than families adopted the previous year.
We still have hundreds of children waiting for families. Unfortunately, more will enter the system in the future. Until no child is waiting and every child has a permanent, loving family, we have more work to do for children.
Take a look at the children waiting for families on the State Adoption Exchange at www.mnadopt.org, think and talk about what you could provide these children and, if it’s right for you, consider adoption. Call your county social service agency and ask how to get started. Children need you.