American families all across the country are celebrating Thanksgiving today, and it is an appropriate time to think about the 442,000 children in foster care that would like to be among that number. Louisiana has done a remarkable job helping thousands of those youngsters find permanent homes, but much more needs to be done.
Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review wrote about foster children in a recent guest commentary in The Advocate. She noted that of the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care, more than 100,000 are adoptable and eligible for placement in “forever families.”
Lopez wrote about Sarah Zagorski, a former foster child and now a mother herself. Zagorski told about growing up with her mother when she was 5 and they were fighting for food and facing other challenges that eventually led to her being placed in foster care in Louisiana for almost eight years. Zagorski eventually found a home with a loving adopted family.
Lopez said, “When you look at and hear from her now, it’s hard not to want to pray for the young Sarahs of today… We’ve got some 330 million people living in the United States. This can be done. These Sarahs can find loving families. These Sarahs should be given a fighting chance.”
November is National Adoption Month, and Lopez asked, “So, what about the kids who don’t have food, family or fun? What about the children who have no sense of normal?”
Earlier this month, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had its 21st Annual Adoption Celebration at the Governor’s Mansion to celebrate the 893 children who found permanent homes with 661 families during the 2019 fiscal year. That is the state’s second highest number of adoptions finalized between Oct. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2019. The record set last year was 912 adoptions.
Marketa Garner Walters, secretary of DCFS, said, “It warms our hearts to know that almost 900 children will be spending Thanksgiving with permanent families. The fact that even more of them were teens and siblings gives us even more to celebrate. We’re grateful we were able to help build new lives for so many children and young people in Louisiana.”
This state has done it, and Lopez said the Christian Alliance for Orphans has a campaign called “More Than Enough” that is rallying people behind the conviction that the country has the means to adopt all its un-housed foster children.
“This should be true and will be true if religious communities, in particular, step up to the plate,” Lopez said. “Christians, in a particular way, believe we are adopted children of a merciful creator. Both the New and Old Testaments emphasize God’s care for the widows and orphans.”
Teen adoptions have been extremely difficult, but Children and Family Services has helped boost that number (teens ages 13-17) by 22 percent. Teens also made up a larger percentage of the total number of children adopted — 9 percent of the 893 adopted this year, compared to 7 percent last year. The department said sibling adoptions also increased.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state has been able to keep siblings together, reunite the majority of children with their birth families or relatives and experience a record number of adoptions for the last three years by working with a wide spectrum of advocates.
Since 2016, the state has been working with the Quality Parenting Initiative, Louisiana Fosters and had national partnerships with the Dave Thomas Foundation, Casey Family Programs, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Youth Villages and the Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development.
Walters, the secretary of DCFS, was recognized as a 2019 Angels in Adoption award recipient for her outstanding advocacy for adoption from foster care. She was nominated by U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, DNew Orleans, to receive the honor from the Congressional Coalition for Adoption Institute, which coordinates the Angels for Adoption Program.
“All children deserve a loving and stable home,” Walters said, “where they can grow and thrive. When families thrive, so do schools, businesses and communities…”
Donna Edwards, Louisiana’s First Lady, was named Advocate of the Year by the Congressional Coalition for Adoption Institute. Edwards launched Louisiana Fosters, a statewide network of faith, nonprofit, business and service communities partnering with the state to bolster support for foster children and their caregivers.
Louisiana has a proud record when it comes to adoptions for foster children, which demonstrates its citizens understand how important it is for children to grow up in successful and happy families.
Lopez said she is grateful there are people like Sarah, Walters and others who advocate for children who can’t come out and say, “Help me. Love me. Save me.”
Thanksgiving is an appropriate time to remember foster children, who don’t ever want to be forgotten.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!