The following was written about a year and a half ago after spending the morning on a courtroom bench waiting for my then-foster son’s case to be called.
Can I tell you a story? Two weeks ago as I sat nervously awaiting our turn, I overheard a short conversation between a teenage boy and the case worker we have been working with. I giggled at what she said and was thankful for the brief moment of relief from the jitters I feel every time I sit waiting in the family court room in downtown Jacksonville. Like every other time, the courts move quickly and decisions are made in a blink. Words and terms and dates that I may never understand. People with important jobs standing up and announcing themselves before the judge over and over. Two sides of the court room. Two tables. Two different sides of the case. One by one children’s names are called. One by one people assemble before the judge. Caseworkers, attorneys, parents, grandparents, family, foster parents, guardians, guardian ad-litems, even children standing before a judge in a room where families are made and broken.
Then they call his name. Juan. He walks up to the front, takes his place on the left side of the courtroom. He had a case worker or two with him. Everyone introduces themselves in the normal fashion, only then do I realize, no one from the other side is speaking. Then my heart breaks. I look to the right where someone should be. No one. No one showed up. Not a parent, family member, no one. The judge asks if the parents were sufficiently notified. The case worker answers yes. The judge declares a termination of parental rights by default. You don’t show, you lose your rights. Right there in that courtroom that boy just became an orphan right in front of his face. The judge then gently asks if there are any prospects for adoption. “Not at this time.” So he loses his parents and no one wants him. Now picture yourself at 16, and take all of that in.
I share this with you because we can do better. I saw a statistic today that if 1 person out of every 3 churches in America adopted a child in the US there would be no more children waiting for a home. That’s huge! Could you imagine the impact, the life changes, the opportunities those children could have if just one family stepped up to be a forever family? That could mean the difference between aging out of foster care or having a familiar place to fall asleep, a spot to do homework, a place to come home for the holidays, and never packing your life in a bag to move once again.
In 2012 the Dave Thomas foundation created this info graphic regarding the realities foster youth face if they age out of the system.
1 in 5 will be homeless after the age of 18. Half will be unemployed by 24. Less than 3% will earn a college degree. 71% of girls who age out of the system will be pregnant by 21. 1 in 4 will experience PTSD.
Source: The Dave Thomas Foundation
I’ll leave you with these two quotes that I think sum it all up.
“Unadoptable is unacceptable.”
Want more information about foster care or adopting waiting children? Here are some countrywide links to get you started:
Heart Gallery of America State Links
The Dave Thomas Foundation Step by Step Guide to Adoption
Adopt US Kids – Meet the Children
I just checked in on Juan. He has aged out.