Adoption has been extremely important to me since I was about 16 years old. I didn't have anyone close to me at the time who had been adopted, but I knew that it was something that I wanted to do and that I wanted to help others do. I came up with the idea to raise money and give scholarships to families that wanted to adopt, but couldn't afford the fees. That idea never truly bloomed for me personally, but I did discover that there are a lot of people in this world doing amazing work to support foster and adoption families. Organizations like AdoptUSKids, Help One Child and HelpUsAdopt.org offer suggestions for how to make an impact on foster kids and families looking to adopt. I've complied a list of five ways we can all help.
1. Help Fund Adoptions
HelpUsAdopt.org offers grants to families who want to adopt, but who need help paying for the adoption fees. With the average adoption in the U.S. costing $40,000, the $15,000 grants from HelpUsAdopt.org are extremely helpful.
2. Donate Supplies
Kids in foster care have very little to call their own. Donate toys, back-to-school supplies or whatever is needed by the foster parent. Visit the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory to find a local agency to partner with to help children in foster care.
Though volunteer opportunities will vary by location, there are national mentoring programs, like Big Brothers and Big Sisters, that offer you the opportunity to directly impact the life of a foster child. Other ways to volunteer include offering video, photography or design services pro bono.
Use your voice on social media or within your community to bring attention to the issues that many foster parents and kids face. Research, learn, and listen to the stories of foster parents and children.
"In 2016, more than 20,000 young people aged out of foster care without permanent families. Research has shown that those who leave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults." - Children's Rights
5. Support Foster and Adopting Families
If you know a family who is trying to adopt, support them emotionally! The waiting process and mounds of paperwork have to be exhausting. Also, DO NOT share the bad stories you've heard about adoption from other people. Every adoption experience is a little different. They've probably already been warned of the real difficulties they may face and they do not need other people's negative opinions. Ok, rant over.
If you know a family who is currently fostering, ask them how you can help. Bring them dinner, mow their lawn, or provide respite care. "Respite care is basically any time a ward of the state is with someone other than the foster parent, birth parent, or caseworker. Because all children in care must be under the supervision of an adult who has been cleared by the state, foster parents can’t call a neighbor or their 17-year-old niece to watch the kids, even in an emergency." - adoption.com
There are so many other ways we can support foster kids and adopting parents, but this is a good start.