860 Virginia Children Need Homes
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860 Virginia Children Need Homes

Regional Adoption Expo

What: 2015 Adoption Expo will educate, inspire and celebrate families formed through adoption. Prospective adoptive parents can meet adoption professionals as well as current adoptive and foster parents to learn about foster care adoption and foster parenting.

Cost: Free

When: Dec. 5, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Where: 801 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

More: adoptionfosterexpo.org

“Parental rights terminated.” “Available for adoption.” “Floundering in an imperfect system.”

These words describe many children who are currently living in foster care in Virginia.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants those children who are currently available for adoption, adopted into loving homes, and he isn’t messing around.

“Let’s make it a goal – all of us in this room – that one year from today all 860 of these children will be adopted,” McAuliffe recently charged a room full of adoption and foster care professionals at the Connecting Hearts Summit.

Focusing on Virginia is a good start. Across the United States, the number of waiting children exceeds 108,000. And more than 26,000 young people across the United States age out of foster care each year to futures more likely to include homelessness and hunger than jobs and careers that will pay the bills. All of those young people were once children like the 108,000 currently languishing in foster care. Children who hoped, in vain, that someone would come forward and choose them for adoption.

In 2014, McAuliffe elevated the priority of foster care adoption by appointing Debbie Johnson as Virginia’s Adoption Champion. An adoptee herself, one of her achievements to-date has been to create Connection Hearts. http://www.connectingheartsva.org/. With Ericca Facetti at the helm, Connecting Hearts works with the Virginia Department of Social Services, local departments of social services as well as local businesses to engage and educate the public about children in foster care who are waiting for adoptive families.

One of Ericca’s immediate goals is to get as many of those children as appropriate included in the Adoptuskids/Virginia listings. Currently, of the 860, just 180 are listed. http://www.adoptuskids.org/states/va/index.aspx

In November, Connecting Hearts launched a “30 Kids in 30 Days” initiative to help underscore the urgency of getting children out of foster care and into loving and permanent adoptive homes. http://www.connectingheartsva.org/our-programs/adoption-month/

According to the Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG), there are 259 children in DC metro area waiting for adoptive homes. Child Welfare Program Manager, Kamilah Bunn, works tirelessly to bring visibility to foster care adoption in our region. COG’s adoption efforts include Wednesday’s Child, The PicMe Project, Regional Adoption Events and the Regional Adoption Exchange. Mwcog.org/childwelfare

It may be difficult to imagine what it must be like, to be a child and feel unloved and unwanted. Many children have no problem advocating for themselves. Perhaps one of the more memorable self-advocates was a 10-year old twin, who grabbed his brother, hopped on a stage in downtown DC, grabbed a mic and belted out to the cheering crowd, “WE NEED A FAMILY.” Other children are not so forthcoming; They are embarrassed by circumstances that are no fault of their own. They have been disappointed by adults who have said they loved them, but who then turned away. They fear further rejection.

Social workers and other professionals like Kamilah Bunn and Ericca Facetti all work together to protect each child, as they work tirelessly to match children successfully with a small pool of potential adoptive families.

In Fairfax County, these five children are hoping that this will be the last Thanksgiving spent in foster homes.