Do you remember what it was like to become an “adult” or turn 18 and what an exciting time that was? I know I do. It’s a time of exhilaration and uncertainty and it’s a time when teens may need family the most as they hit that next milestone in their life. Sadly though, many teens don’t have a family to help them make that transition. Every year 20,000 youth age out of the foster and adoption system. That’s 20,000 teens a year who don’t have someone to stand and cheer for them at graduation or help them move into a dorm room. Teens who age out of the foster care system face a number of struggles including homelessness and unemployment. Becoming an adult is difficult enough without having to go it alone.
In the U.S. there are over 400,000 children in the foster care system and over 100,000 are available to be adopted. So often we think about young children when we think about adoption and foster care but there are so many children, from tweens to teens that are in need of a family. The majority of children are ages eight and older. Teens who have been adopted are more likely to finish high school and go on to college.
Why adopt or foster an older child?
- All of us – and that includes older youth in foster care who are waiting to be adopted – need and want families throughout life to support us and to share important life events. Learning to drive a car, applying for higher education, and birthday and holiday celebrations are just a few examples of the times in life we need and want to share with family.
- Older youth generally wait longer to be adopted, and have lower overall adoption rates.
- On AdoptUSKids.org, roughly 43 percent of the children and youth actively photolisted are between the ages of 15 and 18 years old. (Most recent stats as of September 30, 2016)
- Families who adopt older youth are providing them with the support and stability of a family during a critical period of normal adolescent concerns and additional self-identity issues.
Imagine how an older child’s life could change with the support and love of a family of their own. We never stop needing our family, no matter how old we are and older children, tweens and teens need the support of a home and family to help them reach their full potential as adults.
Adoption and Foster Care Myths
- Adoption isn’t expensive. Most adoptions from U.S. foster care are free. The minimal costs that can be associated with them are often reimbursable. In addition, the vast majority of youth adopted from foster care are also eligible for monthly adoption assistance up to the level of the foster care rate.
- Kids are in foster care through no fault of their own. Children and youth enter foster care not because they’ve done anything wrong, but because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by the people who were supposed to care for them. Over 100,000 are waiting for the love and security that a permanent home provides.
- Many different kinds of people can adopt:
- In most instances, you’re eligible to adopt regardless of age, income, marital status or sexual orientation.
- You don’t need to own your own home, be wealthy, or have a college degree to adopt. (However, you do need to demonstrate that you can support yourself without any additional income, such as adoption assistance.)
- You don’t have to be a stay-at-home parent or have children already. And you don’t have to be of child-bearing age—experienced parents and empty-nesters are encouraged to adopt.
- In most states, you do not have to be married to adopt. Many children have been successfully adopted by single parents.
- Even families living outside of the United States, including military families stationed overseas, are eligible to adopt from the U.S. foster care system.
Stability, support, and love are all any child needs and those things don’t just disappear when you turn 18.