SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Did you know November is National Adoption Month?
It’s all about increasing awareness of adoption issues, emphasizing the value of youth engagement, and bringing more attention to the need for the youth, especially teens, in the U.S. foster care system to be adopted by loving and supportive families.
The campaign began as National Adoption Week in 1984, as proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan. President Bill Clinton then proclaimed the first National Adoption Month in 1995.
National Adoption Month is an initiative of the Children's Bureau. It’s a government organization that partners with federal, state, tribal and local agencies to help improve the overall health and well-being of children and families in the U.S.
The Children's Bureau, primarily, handles matters related to child welfare, like child abuse and neglect, child protective services, family preservation and support, adoption, foster care, and independent living.
Each year, during National Adoption Month, the Children's Bureau focuses outreach and awareness efforts on a new adoption-related theme to help support professionals working each day to find permanency for children and youth in foster care in their communities.
This year's National Adoption Month theme is "Small Steps Open Doors." The goal is to highlight how “pursuing permanency for teens can be challenging, but small steps along the way can make all the difference.”
“We are focusing on small steps and simple actions because major change does not always require time-intensive interventions, and we recognize that many frontline child welfare workers are enduring high turnover rates and heavy caseloads,” Aysha E. Schomburg, Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau, said in a written statement.
Last year, there were more than 114,000 children and youth waiting to be adopted nationwide who were at risk of aging out of foster care without permanent family connections. That’s according to data the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.
It shows more than one in five children waiting to be adopted were teens. The average age of all children waiting to be adopted was 7 1/2 years old. When it comes to the numbers by race or ethnicities, the largest percentages of children waiting were White (43%), Hispanic (23%), and Black or African American (21%).
All children deserve a safe, permanent home with loving families. Children of color, however, continue to be disproportionately represented in foster care, nationwide.
In California, the proportions of Black and Native American youth in foster care are around four times larger than the proportions of Black and Native American youth in the state, overall. That’s according to a 2022 report from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office which examined racial disproportionalities and disparities in the state’s child welfare system.
Black children made up 5% of the child population, yet accounted for 18% of children in foster care. Native children were not even 1% of the total child population in the state but accounted for that percentage in foster care. In comparison, White children were 32% of the population and 25% were in the foster care system.
“Year after year, we remain committed to certain goals during National Adoption Month—we advocate for increased youth engagement in permanency planning, and we advocate for improved racial equity, as Black and Indigenous children continue to be disproportionately represented in the system,” Aysha E. Schomburg, Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau, said. “As we continue to push for change and improvement in these areas, it is important to recognize the great strides we have taken over the years. With each of these advances, we come one step closer to a more just, equitable child welfare system that authentically engages those it serves.”
During National Adoption Month and throughout the year, the Children’s Bureau, along with other groups and organizations, is encouraging the public to “be champions for youth.”
Kaylee, an adopted youth, described how we can do that. She expressed, “Think of all the stuff the youth has been through, what they had to do to survive. It’s not fair to the youth to only be seen for what happened to them. They need one person to believe in them. The caseworker is supposed to guide, comfort, and support the youth.”