Foster children need more than an awareness month

Davion Only

15-year-old Davion Only made a plea for a family.

This month we’re supposed to be aware of the plight of foster children because May is Foster Care Awareness Month. May is the month to look out from under a rock and see that 399,546 children were in foster care at the last reported period. Most shake their heads in sadness as such an atrocity. Let this May be a time to not only peek out but move out and make a difference.

Late last year the plight of foster care came to the forefront when a 15-year-old boy went to church to plead for a family. While no one in the church gave him a family, the story, which was laden in pathos, made headlines and caused even those who had never given adoption a glance to call and attempt to offer a home for the boy. But many then went back under their rocks instead of beginning the efforts to bring another child home. It’s time for that to stop.

Perhaps one of the largest criticisms of pro-lifers from those who support abortion is that pro-lifers care only about the baby being born, rather than what happens to the children after they are born. They only need to look at our foster care statistics to find fuel for their argument.

A column this week in the Huffington Post notes that last year 23,439 children “aged out” of foster care because they turned 18 (21 in some states) and never found a home. Left on their own facing adulthood by a number rather than true preparation, the article notes that:

“[C]children in the United States who are released from foster care, not unlike prisoners being released after 18 years of lockup, have little more than perhaps some information on survival skills, and if they are lucky, an adult contact that they trust and to whom they can turn. Make no mistake, many dedicated and skilled adults step forward to care for these children, as their social workers, counselors or temporary foster parents. Some even stay connected once a child leaves care. And some states have worked hard to extend foster care to 21, but resources for older youth are limited and difficult to access. A Health and Human Services report found that the federal Foster Care Independence program meant to help foster children make the transition to adulthood is inconsistent from state to state and provides too little for these troubled young people. And it simply is not a substitute for a family.”

However, even those who cannot take a child in permanently, or even foster a child, can help with foster children. Everyone can be involved in some way.  As the Huffington Post article notes, children are released into the world in much the same way prisoners are. As a pro-life society, it is the responsibility of those who claim to love life to intervene—in whatever way possible.

Many call for legislative action, and while that’s good, it’s not what these children need most right now. They need people involved in their lives in some way.

About 100,000 of them need adopting. That’s the best thing that could happen to a kid without a forever family. As the boy from Florida said when he stood before the church:

“I’ll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be… If you can, reach out and get me and love me until I die…. It’s not really cool not to have anybody.”

Most foster children would echo his statements. A child without a family doesn’t care what subdivision or school district someone lives in; she doesn’t care if mom and dad are doctors or janitors–just that they are mom and dad.

It may not be realistic for some to adopt, but many can foster temporarily. Though it’s not as ideal as a permanent home, fostering can forge stable relationships and give a child a glimpse into what is healthy and good in a difficult transition periods.

Still others, and almost everyone, can be involved in other ways. People who own businesses can commit to help train these older children and give them jobs. Churches can set up mentoring programs made for purposes of reaching out to these children and helping to give them a stable spiritual and emotional foundation. While they may age out of a system, they will never age out of a need for relationship and mentoring.

In short, there is something everyone who is pro-life can do for foster children. Simply being aware because it’s a certain month of the year does no good for someone; it is only when awareness spurs action that lives will be changed.

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