Open Homes: Foster Care and Adoption – Part 1: What is the Need, and What Does This Have to do With Hunger, Anyway?

Open Homes

Congratulations to Lisa Landrum Hensen, the winner of Food Shelf Friday’s For the Love giveaway!

During the month of June, I am going to be posting a series of blogs called Open Homes: Foster Care and Adoption. This is part one: “What is the Need, and What Does This Have to do With Hunger, Anyway?”

I am personally not a foster or adoptive parent, nor did I grow up in a foster or adopting home. So the idea of adoption and especially foster care seems unfamiliar and overwhelming to me, and I know a lot of you feel the same way. The disruption. The expenses. The physical/mental/emotional challenges that many of these kids bring with them. It’s daunting. And I know a lot of us look at foster care and think, “I could never do that.” Guess what? NO ONE looks at fostering and says, “Sure, no problem, I can do that.” People who agree to foster or adopt don’t have fewer challenges; they do it in spite of the challenges because there are children without stable homes. For this series I invited a number of my friends from around the country to share their experiences with foster care and/or adoption so that people like you and I who don’t have personal experience can understand why they do what they do, and what we can do to help. I’ll introduce the crew of contributors next week. For now, let’s take a look at why this is such a big need.

Food Shelf Friday is all about hunger. I assure you that I have not strayed from my mission. As my friend Sarah said, if a child has spent ANY time in the foster system, it’s not a matter of IF they have food issues, it’s just a matter of which issues and how bad. Scarcity undermines stability and has long lasting effects on children. A big part of what I’m doing with this series will relate to children’s food issues as they move from neglect and scarcity into a foster or adoptive home.

Some facts that illustrate this big need: Over 397,000 American children are currently in foster care. About 30% of them are fully terminated from their birth parents and available for adoption.  The average foster child’s wait for a forever family is 3 years – significantly longer for kids with serious special needs, older children, and sibling groups. Over 23,000 kids “age out” every year, meaning that their time in the foster system is finished as they become legal adults, and they are launched into the adult world without parents to guide them. Worldwide, there are more than 17.9 million orphans living in orphanages or on the streets.

In 2008 there were an estimated 135,800 adoptions in the United States, both international and domestic, open and private (there is no agency that tracks all adoptions, the info is scattered here and there depending on whether the kids are going through private, foster, or international adoption. 2008 was the most recent estimate I could find). In 2012 there were just over 7,000 international adoptions by American parents, a number that has been declining in recent years (it was over 17,000 in 2008), probably due to the depressed economy and the expense of international adoption, as well as policy changes abroad. About 40% of American adoptions involve children from the foster system.

17.9 million orphans. Nearly 400,000 American kids in foster care. These are big numbers. Obviously this is a major issue and a huge need. Begin to pray for the children out there who don’t have parents to guide and care for them. Pray for the families who foster. Pray for the families who are working on adoptions or adjusting to the unique challenges of bringing home an adopted child. In the weeks to come I will be introducing you to a panel of people from around the country who have seen these numbers and declared that they will do something about it. We will be learning from their varied experiences how we can do the most good for the next generation, even if we don’t become foster or adoptive parents ourselves.

Facts about foster care, orphans, and adoption came from The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, which gathered many of these facts from various agencies and studies and put them all in one place. Other facts came from the National Infertility and Adoption Education Organization:

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