By Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner, Children’s Bureau
Nearly 18,000 youth aged out of foster care in 2018 in the United States. Child welfare and adoption professionals have an enormous opportunity to help youth in foster care explore the value of establishing permanent connections with an adoptive family, caring guardian, and others important to them. Having close and permanent ties helps set these young people up for success and provides an anchor as they transition into adulthood. This year's National Adoption Month theme, "Engage Youth: Listen and Learn," highlights the voices and perspectives of older youth who have experience with adoption and foster care and emphasizes the role that professionals can play in engaging youth throughout the permanency process.
Even though it is well documented that adoption or guardianship can benefit older youth, it is still a big decision for a young person. Older youth considering permanency options may have feelings of fear, rejection, grief, or abandonment that can create a reluctance to pursue adoption. When young people are engaged in the permanency process, they can voice their concerns and ask questions. Adoption professionals can then help young people become aware of their options and help them navigate their feelings and concerns. Hearing directly from young people also gives them a chance to inform the process and make decisions about their life.
The Children Bureau's 2020 National Adoption Month website offers many resources to encourage youth to explore how adoption or guardianship can benefit them in early adulthood and beyond. The website features narratives and videos of real-life stories from young people who have transitioned out of foster care to adoption, guardianship, or independent living. It also includes strategies for adoption and child welfare professionals to help youth address issues, such as prior separation and loss, that might be getting in the way of a desire to explore permanency. It also provides tips for legal professionals to engage older youth in their own case planning, remove barriers to permanency, and collaborate with child welfare agencies to ensure the best outcomes for young people.
Visit the 2020 National Adoption Month website and find the following resources on how you can help the youth in your area explore permanency:
During November, and all year long, we encourage you to help youth in foster care carefully consider what legal and emotional permanency can mean for their well-being and future and urge you to find opportunities to promote permanency for the children, youth, and families in your area.