The absence of an unconditionally committed parent in the life of a child cannot be treated by medication or therapy. (Kevin Campbell)
For far too long, teen adoption has been considered impossible. Teens are viewed as difficult, unable to attach, and having too many issues (therapies, meds and diagnoses). This mindset allows teenagers with a goal of adoption to languish in foster care, residential facilities, group homes, therapeutic settings, hospitals and DJJ getting further and further away from a family they can call their own. We need to shift how we view our teens; as we locate a family for them. It shouldn’t be a matter of ‘if’ we locate one but whom and how.
Teens that age out of care without a family can have frightening outcomes:
Ø 49% of youth in a national survey of runaway and homeless youth shelters conducted by NASW spent time in out-of-home care; 38% in foster care, 11% in another shelter.
Ø 61% of homeless youth under 20 years of age reported having been placed in foster care, group homes or institutions before the age of 18.
Youth’s Permanent Connections
Recruiting for teens is different than younger children and should be treated as such. General types of recruitment will not get the job done with this population. So how do we do this seemingly insurmountable task? When was the last time you talked with the child about with whom he/she would like to have permanency? Some teens say they don’t want to be adopted for a multitude of reasons. When adults give teens the power to say “no” to adoption, the teen hears:
• “You are not loveable.”
• “No one would want you anyway.”
• “There is no hope for your future.”
• “You are not important enough for me to exert any energy in trying to find you a family.”
So, how can we engage the youth in planning for permanency? First, we ask the child what their family would look like. How else will we know how to recruit for the teen without including them in the process? Ask:
• What will it take to achieve permanency?
• What can we try that HAS been tried before?
• What can we try that has NEVER been tried before?
Teens in care can and have found permanency with:
Foster Parent’s neighbors Foster Parent’s friends
Foster Parent’s family members Foster Parent’s pastor
Members in Foster Parent’s church Child’s best friend’s mother
Social work & other agency staff Employers or bosses
Administrative staff GAL/CASA worker
Clergy/chaplin Teachers & other school staff
School crossing guard Cafeteria staff
Teacher’s aide God parents
Unexplored maternal & paternal relatives such as older siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, birth parents and other extended family members.
In addition to the Heart Gallery, teens should be photo-listed on Adoptuskids.org. Not only will this generate much greater exposure for the child, but the case manager can search families that are registered on the site who are interested in adopting. There are thousands of families and many search options that will help you identify the most likely matches. The families and their case managers can be contacted from the site.