Though Children’s Home Society (CHS) has provided adoption services for 102 years, our role in “special needs” or foster care-related adoptions is more recent. As a result of Community Based Care (CBC), CHS is providing adoption services for children in foster care in many parts of the state. By June 30, CHS expects to be involved with more than 500 adoptions involving children in the foster care system, compared to just 150 in 2001-02.
Two years ago as CHS explored this potential boom, it seemed only natural to turn to the late Dave Thomas, a long-time CHS supporter and founder of Wendy’s Restaurants and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DFTA). Dave ’s goal was to make sure that children in foster care who need permanent homes and families in a timely manner. CHS’ Learning Institute and DFTA created a Special Needs Adoption workgroup, including veteran adoption professionals, to develop a comprehensive special needs adoption model and a training program for new adoption workers.
During the project many myths about adoption surfaced, even within the child welfare community.
One is “The Myth of Adolescent Independence,” which promotes the belief that it is acceptable to allow youth to “age out ” of the foster care system. This means an 18-year old leaves a group home and ventures into adulthood with no significant, permanent connection to an adult committed to his/her well-being. The truth is that aging out is not acceptable, but continues due to the shortage of adoptive homes for foster children.
Of course there are wonderful and critically important Independent Living programs that teach skills essential for youth preparing to move from group life to life on their own, but these programs cannot take the place of a parent. Consider the following information derived from the 2000 U.S.Census –and keep in mind that most youth included in this data are from more stable environments.
- The most typical “placement” for a 22-year old college graduate is home.
- The average age a young adult leaves home to set up their own home is age 26.
- The average age of a young adult who is settled in a “real” job with security, benefits and full-time hours is age 28.
- The percentage of 18-24 year olds that list “Mom/Dad ” as roommates is 50%.
What does this mean for youth in the foster care system?
Most college graduates first move is back home. Most young adults aren’t fully independent until their mid-20s. Half of young adults ages 19 and 24 are living with their parents.
How difficult must the transition to adulthood be for children with no support system, no family, no place to call home?
Theirs is a bleak picture, indeed. In the few studies of these youth two to four years out of foster care show that:
- 50-60% are homeless
- 60% of the females have given birth
- 40% of the males have been in trouble with the law, and
- Median income for these youth is under $3000 including welfare and food stamps.
No figures speak as loudly as the words of a young man who spoke at the national ceremony for Congressional Angels in Adoption Ceremony in Washington D.C. this past November. He told the crowd he had been adopted at age 21and how very thankful he was to finally have this sense of belonging.
You see, he wanted his future children to have grandparents to visit. He wanted a place to go home to for the holidays. He wanted to be loved. That is why Children’s Home Society relentlessly pursues the best possible practices for helping children in foster care — and a “forever family.”
For more information, please call Children’s Home Society at (321) 752-3170 or visit https://www.chsfl.org/