Thomas Caston has few recollections of his birth parents. Adopted at 11 through an agency that found homes for “hard to place” children, Caston looks upon each year’s National Adoption Day as a celebration for his fellowadoptees, and an opportunity for the three children he and his wife adopted to commemorate their own placements. But creating happy endings for waiting children, according to Caston and local adoption advocates, requires dispelling myths about both adoption and rearing children of color.
There were 415,129 children in the U.S. foster care system as of September 30, 2014, with 107,918 of them available for adoption, according to the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Studies show that Black children who come into contact with the child welfare system are disproportionately represented in foster care, and are less likely than children of other racial and ethnic groups to move to a permanent placement.
“I remember being that kid with no parents and feeling isolated and rejected because the natural gravitation was towards adopting infants or toddlers,” Caston told the AFRO. “The plan was always to foster and adopt once I became an adult because no child should feel as if they are not anchored to the world around them.”
Susan Punnett, executive director of the Family & Youth Initiative, an organization that works exclusively with teens in foster care said that perhaps the most pressing need remains in placing teen populations. “Teens are hidden from view and the system protects their confidentiality so we don’t hear about them,” said Punnett, who said many teens do not want friends to know they are in foster care or in need of adoptive parents. “Many people also think children are in foster care because of something they did rather than something that was done to them (or care that was not provided to them).”
Punnett told the AFRO that the latter assumption reinforces misconceptions that foster children are “bad” children. “Add to that the fact that they are teens, an age that most people do not look forward to parenting, and it makes sense that people would not consider adopting a teen from foster care,” Punnett said.
Many advocates point to other misconceptions about adoption as a whole that hinder placements, including: expense to foster or adopt, difficulty of meeting qualifications, including not owning their own home; poor health conditions; or being single. “We have a unique program that allows adults and teens in foster care to form relationships naturally. The more adults who meet and get to know teens who need families, the more teens who will find families,” Punnett said. “Getting to know each other breaks through whatever questions/fears/myths people might have had.”
In addition to the Wednesday’s Child segments that appear on D.C.’s NBC4, weekly, those interested in learning more about adoption can attend this year’s annual Adoption and Foster Care Expo on Dec. 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m at the Historical Society of Washington, 801 K Street NW in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit adoptionfosterexpo.org.