Social media raises awareness for plight of older kids in foster care

By November 19, 2012

USA (MNN) — Every November, a Presidential proclamation kicks of National Adoption Month. Organizations around the nation arrange and host programs, events, and activities to share positive adoption stories, challenge the myths, and draw attention to the thousands of kids in foster care waiting to be adopted.

You often learn about it by seeing a billboard or hearing a story on the radio.

"We took a different approach and looked at doing something on Facebook," says John VanValkenburg with Bethany Christian Services. "It's been a tremendous success in the first few weeks of November."

It's called the "30 Families for 30 Kids" campaign. Every day on its Facebook page, Bethany highlights an older child waiting to be united with a forever family. You can check it out here.

Since National Adoption Month began in 1995, the number of kids in foster care has decreased sharply, falling from approximately 523,000 in 2002 to just over 400,000 in 2012. Unfortunately, the number of kids who age out of the foster care system and can't go back to live with their biological parents is still high: 26,286.

"Statistics show that living in foster care long-term can have a negative and lasting impact on children," says Bethany president Bill Blacquiere. "More than 40% of foster children end up abusing drugs and alcohol, 40% turn to crime, and up to 10% commit suicide.

"Our hope is that the '30 Families for 30 Kids' campaign will have a lasting impact on securing loving homes for the vulnerable children in the foster care system."

VanValkenburg says adopting older kids is easier than most people realize.

"A lot of people don't know that in most states, adopting these children can cost less than $200, and sometimes that amount is reimbursable," says VanValkenburg. "It costs next to nothing to adopt these older children."

Children age out of foster care at 18 years old. Why is it so challenging for older kids to find homes?

"I think there are some stereotypes that they're…delinquents, but that's really not the case," VanValkenburg states. "In most cases, they're the victim of abuse and neglect, so they've been removed from the home.

"It's just unbearable to think about how much these kids have gone through."

VanValkenburg explains that abuse and neglect often lead to a general mistrust of adults.

"They don't trust adults because the adults in their lives couldn't be trusted in the first place," says VanValkenburg. "It is a little bit more of a challenging placement, but with an agency like Bethany, we prepare families for these challenges.

"We're along with them after the adoption, as well, to make sure that that forever family says together and is strong and healthy."

While adoption gets national attention this month, the fact remains that kids will still need homes after the holidays.

"Some kids out there that didn't celebrate Christmas the way it should've been celebrated," VanValkenburg says. "We're constantly looking for families for these children."

You don't have to adopt to make a difference. Share this story with your friends on Facebook.

"We recognize that adoption isn't for everybody, so we ask for prayers for these children that they find a forever family."

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