National Adoption Month Reminds Us That We Can Help Our Most Vulnerable Children

Commentary by: Dean P. Johnson, Follow South Jersey Editor

The prolific writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, once said that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

The impact of that indifference can not be underestimated. Especially when it comes to children who desperately need a real, permanent home.

November is National Adoption Month, which is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Children’s Bureau whose goal is to increase awareness of the need for permanent families for children and youth in the U.S. foster care system according to the department’s website.

My wife was in foster care for the first three years of her life. The day after she was born she was put in the care of children’s services. She was placed with a couple who had other foster children who were separated from their parents temporarily. 

My wife tells me of faint memories of a white car with a state seal coming to her house from time to time. Sometimes the person from the car would just visit with her. Other times, one of the other foster children had to step into the car and was never seen by my wife again.

Fortunately for my wife, she never had to go into that car. The couple adopted her and raised her as their own loving child.

She was one of the lucky ones. Lucky to be accepted by good, strong, dedicated, and loving people. Lucky to have a place she could call her own home. Lucky to have a bedroom that was hers.  Lucky to have a school where she felt confident she would stay. Lucky that she didn’t have to be wary of making friends for fear she would have to leave them without notice. Lucky to have a permanent family foundation that offers her a lifetime of love and support.

Unfortunately, many do not have such luck.

Currently, there are over 122,000 children and youth nationwide waiting to be adopted who are at risk of aging out of foster care without permanent family connections. Nearly one in five children in the U.S. foster care system who are waiting to be adopted are teenagers, and, unfortunatley, the risk of homelessness and human trafficking is increased for teenagers in foster care.

A child’s welfare should not be determined by luck.

During this National Adoption Month, prospective adoptive parents should consider adopting a child from foster care to complete their family.

If not looking to adopt, another way to help these children is to become a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).  CASA volunteers are officially appointed by a Juvenile Court judge who authorizes them to become involved in a foster child’s case, gaining access to their records. After serving as a fact-finder for the judge, these volunteers advocate for the child, speaking up on the child’s behalf to help them through a time ath could be confusing and just a bit frightening.

According to the National CASA Association, over 93,000 people volunteer nationwide in 49 states and the District of Columbia assisting more than a quarter of a million children.

If personal time constraints limit opportunities to volunteer, consider participating in National Adoption Month by donating to one of South Jersey’s three CASA associations:  CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester & Salem Counties, CASA of Camden County, or CASA of Atlantic and Cape May Counties.

If indifference is the opposite of love, then love —  love for our most vulnerable children — will absolutely make a difference.

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