On a crisp fall day in October 2020, I logged onto Zoom before the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas to attend the most important hearing of my life. I did not prepare outlines. I did not have an opening statement or cross-examinations. Instead, my husband and I sat at our dining room table and logged on with our children to adopt our daughter, Maya.
Maya came to live with us in the spring of 2018 when she was five months old. Her deep dimples and big brown eyes immediately stole our hearts. My husband and I were “veteran” parents by then - we had fostered over half a dozen kids and added a biological one by the time Maya came to live with us. The other children that we helped to raise were reunited with a parent or adopted by one of their biological family members. While the goal of foster care is always reunification with a concurrent placement with a biological family member, that goal is not always feasible. As such, non-kinship foster parents are always needed. Our daughter’s goal switched to adoption before the pandemic started after she had been living with us for about 22 months.
Children enter foster care because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parent or guardian. While my daughter’s story is hers to tell, she did move into our house as a happy and healthy baby for which we will always be grateful.
In 1984, President Reagan established a National Adoption Week in November which was expanded to a National Adoption Month in 1995 to spread awareness as to the need for love and support for the hundreds of thousands of children that are in foster care every day, including those waiting for their forever home. The month also celebrates the families that have grown through adoption. Presently, there are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Out of that number, approximately 120,000 are waiting to be adopted. Approximately 23,000 children “age out” of the foster care system every year and essentially become homeless. While the statistics are not as readily apparent, it appears that approximately 40,000 to 60,000 children are adopted through foster care each year.
During this National Adoption Month, the country is highlighting the need to do what we can for children in foster care. In years past, my husband and I have thrown parties in October to gather holiday gifts to donate to our local foster care agency. We’d reach out to learn what was needed and then request donations based on that need. After each party, I filled my Honda Odyssey to the max with diapers, clothes and toys for all ages. While the pandemic threw a wrench in that type of donation, I was able to collect money through venmo and purchase gift cards last holiday season.
Professionals in the area are always needed to serve as guardian ad litems to represent children in the foster care system. Hearings consist of lawyers to represent the parent(s) and the county agency. A third attorney is needed to represent the best interests of the child. I have volunteered with Montgomery Child Advocacy Project and I have partners who volunteer with Support Center for Child Advocates based in Philadelphia. Both organizations have useful resources that provide opportunities to volunteer time and/or give monetary donations.
As I write this article, it is the one year anniversary of adopting Maya. We sent cupcakes to daycare for both our children’s classes to celebrate. I encourage everyone to consider celebrating National Adoption Month. No gesture is too small - watch a movie or read a book on the issue. Post a link on social media on ways to donate. I am also an open resource if you ever wish to reach out to discuss ways to get involved. I can be reached at email@example.com.