- November 2020
- Vol. 21, No. 8
November Is National Adoption Month
All children and youth deserve to grow up in a safe, stable, and loving family. The child welfare system exists to support and strengthen children and families so they can remain intact. When children and youth are not able to safely remain or reunify with their families, it is essential to pursue permanency through adoption or guardianship. Since 1995, the Children's Bureau dedicates every November to adoption and increasing awareness about the need for adoptive families through the National Adoption Month initiative. Additionally, over the last 2 years, both the Administration for Children and Families and the Children's Bureau have prioritized permanency for youth in foster care through the Assistant Secretary's ALL-IN Foster Adoption Challenge and the Children's Bureau's Adoption Call to Action. Through these initiatives, States, with the support of nonprofits, businesses, faith partners, and local communities, have worked to examine data to develop new strategies for achieving timely permanency; enact plans for the recruitment, development, and support of adoptive families; and incorporate youth engagement strategies to ensure that young people are guiding their own permanency planning.
Fortunately, the 26th Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System report shows permanency efforts are making a difference. The number of children and youth in foster care significantly decreased to 423,997 in September 2019, as did the number of children waiting to be adopted. Yet, even with these positive trends, the work continues. On September 30, 2019, the number of children and youth waiting for adoption or other permanent homes was over 122,000. Of those children, 13,974 (11 percent) were between the ages of 15 and 17, and we know that older youth wait longer for permanency and are at risk of entering adulthood without necessary unconditional supports. Securing lifelong connections for these teens, both legally and emotionally, is a critical component in determining their future achievement, health, and well-being.
The theme for National Adoption Month 2020 is "Engage Youth: Listen and Learn" which focuses on finding adoptive families for older youth and highlights the importance of engaging young people in both routine and systems-change processes. Youth are the experts about what they want and need for their life and likely have questions and concerns they must discuss in order to move forward with permanency planning. To ensure permanency efforts are successful, it is vital that each young person is able to inform the process and make decisions about their life. Youth engagement is not a one-time action but instead should be incorporated into daily practice.
The National Adoption Month 2020 website includes resources and tips to help child welfare and legal professionals develop and support both formal and informal opportunities for young people to effectively share their voice and perspective. There are resources to help child welfare professionals address common barriers to effective youth engagement as well as resources for legal professionals in support of collaboration with child welfare and supporting permanency for older youth. Youth voice is incorporated throughout the website in tip boxes as well as the Voices of Youth section which features narratives and videos about the meaning of family and permanency.
Youth, families, and professionals can also visit the website to do the following:
- Read, watch, and listen to personal stories and share the examples of youth in foster care talking about the meaning of family
- Identify strategies to partner with youth in all aspects of permanency planning and child welfare practices
- Listen to the National Adoption Month webinar and hear directly from young people and professionals about how to successfully engage and partner with youth in permanency planning
National Adoption Month, supported each November by the Children's Bureau, is a partnership between AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway.