As we gather together for Thanksgiving to give thanks for our families, friends, health and wealth, let us not forget those less fortunate, especially those children and youth who will spend this holiday season not with their family but in foster homes, group homes or institutions.
In New Jersey, over 13,000 children live in foster care. In Atlantic and Cape May Counties, over 1,000 children live within a child welfare system that was designed as a temporary fix to a family crisis but has become, for many children, a way of life. Many youth spend years in foster care, moving from one placement to another without ever having a sense of permanency, roots or stability.
Let us remember that children enter foster care, not because of something that they have done, but for the faults of the adults who are supposed to care for them. Parental drug abuse, domestic violence, neglect and mental illness all play a part in why children are removed from their homes. Access to resources and services often help parents correct issues and thankfully families are reunited. But in those instances where reunification is not an option, others must step in to care for the children. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, distant relatives and adoptive families all play a part in providing a permanent home for some of our children living in foster care.
So, it is fitting that the Thanksgiving season is also a time to celebrate National Adoption Month and give thanks to the people who provide love and stability for the children who need it most by welcoming them into their family through adoption.
National Adoption Month is a collective effort of state, federal and private agencies to draw attention to the more than 100,000 foster children and youth across the country who await permanent families, as well as recognize the families that have chosen to expand their families in this special way.
National Adoption Month is also a call to action. Become a foster family, open your home to adoption, become a CASA volunteer, a youth mentor, or support an organization that helps children living in foster care. By getting involved in some way, not only will you change a child’s life, but you will change your own.