by Kelly Canter, MSW
Adopting Older Youth
In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis on improving outcomes for youth transitioning from foster care. Thirty-eight percent of the foster care population is made up of youth ages 12 to 20 years old and approximately 30,000 young people leave foster care every year without legal ties to a family, according to 2014 statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The permanency option of adoption for these older youth is often overlooked. Adolescence is challenging for all young people, but in comparison to their peers in the general population, youth in foster care experience higher rates of dropping out of high school, unemployment and homelessness.
The permanency, stability and support of a family serves as a protective factor against these negative outcomes — and becomes a foundation on which youth in care can build their path to emerging independence. Older youth who are adopted from foster care are more likely to finish high school, go to college, and be more emotionally secure than those who remain in or age out of foster care. Older youth often want the sense of connection and belonging that comes with having a permanent family. This year, National Adoption Month focuses on our nation’s older youth awaiting permanent families and reminds us that “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family.”
Promoting the Adoption of Older Youth
The impact of adoption for older youth should not be underestimated. Adoptive parents provide the essential guidance youth need to successfully navigate a strong path to independence. Child welfare and adoption professionals are vitally important in finding permanent families for older youth in foster care. Professionals also share the responsibility of helping youth understand their permanency options, including adoption.
The National Adoption Month website is designed to help spread the message about the importance of permanence for older youth in foster care. It also highlights strategies and resources for child welfare and related professionals to help identify, recruit, train and support potential adoptive families for older youth.
• View the National Adoption Month’s For Professionals section at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/professionals to find information to help engage local media and build partnerships to recruit and retain adoptive families specifically interested in adopting older youth from the foster care system.
• The Families and Youth section at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/youth provides information on adopting from foster care and highlights powerful videos featuring youth and adoptive families. Youth can also learn about how to get involved in their permanency plans and stay connected with teens who share similar experiences through social media.
• The Spread the Word section at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/spread-the-word provides the basics of using social media and offers sample media messages to promote National Adoption Month. You can also read President Obama’s proclamation of November as National Adoption Month and find information about other activities to support the initiative.
Supporting the Adoption of Older Youth
Adoption is a lifelong process. In a survey of more than 1,000 adoptive parents from the United States and Canada, the North American Council on Adoptable Children found that many families’ support needs emerged years after their adoptions were finalized (Stevens, 2013). Adolescence is a particularly significant developmental period where youth who have been adopted may begin to have more specific questions and desire a better understanding of their past, including information about their birth parents and the reasons they came in to foster care. Behavioral or emotional difficulties can also become more challenging during the teen years. The National Adoption Month website highlights resources at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/families-youth/adoptive-families for adoptive families that explain what to expect at various developmental stages.
Additionally, Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Factsheet for Families, Parenting Your Adopted Teenager at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/parent-teenager, is designed to help parents understand their adopted teenager’s experiences and needs so they are able to respond with practical strategies that foster healthy development. These strategies include approaches that acknowledge trauma and loss, support effective communication, promote a teen’s independence, and address behavioral and mental health concerns. Information Gateway also has additional information at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/adopt-parenting about how to talk about adoption, address adoption issues in school, help youth with grief and loss, recognize and get help for post-adoption depression, find needed services and obtain financial assistance.
To find information about post-adoption services in your area, you can:
• Look up your state post-adoption services contact or state adoption manager in the National Foster Care & Adoption Directory at https://www.childwelfare.gov/nfcad/. The NFCAD also has a list of post-adoption service providers and support groups that you can search by state.
• Suggest parents call other public and private adoption agencies in their area and ask to receive information on their post-adoption events and services. (While some services may be restricted to families who adopted through the agency, many will be open to all adoptive families.)
• Search parent support groups for information about events and local organizations that provide services. You can browse adoption groups using the NFCAD or via the Adoptive Families Circle at http://www.adoptivefamiliescircle.com/groups/.
• Search the Information Gateway’s related organizations list, State Adoptive Family Associations at https://www.childwelfare.gov/organizations/?CWIGFunctionsaction=rols:main.dspROL&rolType=Custom&RS_ID=32.
• Inquire about service providers through health insurance plans. Information Gateway’s factsheet for families, Selecting and Working with a Therapist Skilled in Adoption, https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/f_therapist.pdf, may be a helpful place to start.
We Never Outgrow the Need for a Family
This month, the Children’s Bureau and the adoption community as a whole celebrate the thousands of families that have been created through adoption from foster care. We commemorate the dedication of those moms and dads who have welcomed a young person into their families, and we acknowledge the strength and resiliency of the children and youth who are still waiting to find their forever home. Visit the National Adoption Month website today at http://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelly Canter, MSW, is the adoption program manager for Child Welfare Information Gateway, the information service for the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Stevens, K. (2013). Post-adoption needs survey offers direction for continued advocacy efforts. Adoptalk. Retrieved from www.nacac.org/adoptalk/postadoptionsurvey.html
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The AFCARS Report: Preliminary FY 2013 estimates as of July 2014, No. 21. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport21.pdf.
Normalcy for Foster
Youth and Foster Parents
Prudent Parent Laws Goes into Effect, Impacting
Foster Parenting and Parenting Decision Making
By Laura Boyd, Ph.D.
When asking founder and publisher Richard Fischer about the feedback he gets from the readers of Fostering Families Today, an adoption-resource publication company, he runs to the back off his office at 541 E. Garden Drive and brings out a stack of thank you letters from kids who have been adopted after being featured in his magazine..... more
Foster Parents as Courtroom Advocates
By Hon. Thomas "Britt" Hammond
Many children in foster care today will need the support of mental health services as a result of the abuse and neglect that brought them into the foster care system. These vulnerable children have often experienced numerous traumatic events and clearly at least one, if not more, disruptions from attachment figures. What may not be as obvious is the critical role foster parents play in helping their foster children heal. With the right training and experience, the 24/7 care a foster parent provides will always trump the 50 minutes a child may spend with a therapist each week — even more so if the therapist is not well informed and experienced in working with children from the child welfare system. .....more
Fostering Families TODAY supports the innovative AdoptUSKids initiative administered by the Adoption Exchange Association. Visit their site at:
BE A CONTRIBUTOR! YOUR story is exactly what another reader might be looking for! FFT welcomes contributions from all involved in the child welfare system---from parents to professionals. Nominate someone for recognition. Speak up on issues that impact the system. Respond to articles in the current issue. Share your foster or adoptive parenting experience. See our writer's guidelines or contact the EDITOR and PUBLISHER Richard Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Need ideas? Call the main office at (888) 924-6736.