November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Although all adoptions are important, this Children's Bureau initiative specifically focuses on increasing national awareness of the need for permanent families for children and youth in the U.S. foster care system.
It's estimated that in the United States alone, around 400,000 children are a part of the foster care system, and 25% of those children are waiting to find a forever home. In Tennessee, about 8,000 children are in foster care and around 790 children are available for adoption.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services works with organizations such as Youth Villages to find permanent homes for the children who have adoption as a goal.
Youth Villages provides help for children and young people across the United States who face a wide range of emotional, mental and behavioral problems through various programs and services. In 1999, it began its adoption program as a natural extension of the foster care program.
“Fostering a child is the first step toward adoption,” says Aisha Ward, a foster parent training and recruiting supervisor. “Many of our foster parents adopt the children in their homes when they become eligible for adoption in Tennessee.”
The national average age of a child in foster care is 7 years old. While babies are often adopted quickly, the adoption rates of children over 8 decrease significantly.
This summer, Stephon, a loving 14-year-old boy, found a permanent home with his loving and kind foster mother, Johnnie, when she adopted him. She wanted to become a foster parent to help troubled children by providing stability and a nurturing environment.
Stephon entered foster care after experiencing severe physical abuse and neglect. Through Youth Villages programs and services, Stephon received intensive therapy to process and heal his trauma. Stephon remembers walking into Johnnie’s home for the first time in October 2019. He remembered how fresh it smelt and how welcoming it was.
“We know that kids who grow up and move into adulthood with the stability and support offered through adoption experience better outcomes than their peers who leave foster care without the foundation of a permanent family environment,” Ward says. “Knowing a family is there to cheer them on from the sidelines at their games, listen attentively or give them a hug when they’re feeling alone can mean the world to a child or teen.”
To learn more about adoption and how you can make a difference in the lives of children and youth in need, visit youthvillages.org/adoption/ or call the local office at 423.954.8890.
About Youth Villages
All Youth Villages employees are committed to providing safe spaces and safe families for children. They work to find solutions using proven treatment models that strengthen the child’s family and support systems and dramatically improve their long-term success. Youth Villages helped more than 30,000 young people and their families this year.
Thousands of children and youth across the country need permanent families. You can make a difference by raising awareness in your community. Use these communications tools to share important information and resources.