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Finding Safe, Loving Homes for Teens in Need Is More Important Than Ever

Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan discusses the importance of finding permanent, loving homes for children, particularly teens, in foster care.

During the Christmas and holiday season, we enjoy the opportunity to spend time with our family and loved ones. So it’s an appropriate time to remember how important it is to secure the blessing of a loving family for every American, and it’s appropriate that November marks National Adoption Month.

The Department of Health and Human Services plays an important role in helping American families adopt children now in foster care. HHS’s Children’s Bureau, part of the Administration for Children and Families, funds and partners with federal, state, tribal and local agencies to improve the overall health and well-being of our nation’s children and families.

America now has more than 430,000 children in foster care, from infants to 21-year-olds, and new data released by HHS this week found that there are now more children in foster care than ever. We are happy to note that in 2016, there were more adoptions out of foster care than ever.

However, we need to improve our adoption rate, the need is especially urgent for teenagers. Like the rest of us, teenagers need strong, loving, permanent families to help them get their bearings in the world, live healthy and productive lives, and contribute to their communities and their country. Sadly, youths between 15 and 18 are often overlooked in foster care adoptions.

Statistics show that about 20,000 of the youths currently in foster care will likely not find permanent homes before they leave the system (which occurs at between 18 and 21, depending on the state where they live). These teens, many of whom were abused, neglected or abandoned, will then be completely on their own. A range of evidence suggests that making this transition to adulthood without the guidance and support of parents can bring a host of challenges later in life.

That’s why the HHS Children’s Bureau has a new initiative to promote awareness of the need for teen adoption. In partnership with the Ad Council, AdoptUSKids, and the advertising agency KBS, the Children’s Bureau has a new series of ads called “What to Expect When You’re Expecting … A Teenager.”

The series highlights the importance of adopting teenage girls and boys from foster care and emphasizing that adoptive parents do not have to be perfect to be a perfect parent to a youth from foster care. We all know no parent is perfect; good families are created out of commitment and love.

The Children’s Bureau also partners with AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway to promote awareness of this issue during National Adoption Month each year. This year’s theme is “Teens Need Families, No Matter What,” which highlights the need to find permanent, safe families for this vulnerable group, as well as to emphasize the importance of making youth adoptions successful.

Helping children and youth find the loving, permanent families they need and deserve is a key part of our goals at HHS of building better health and stronger communities.

We each have a role to play in helping these children and teenagers—whether it’s choosing to be a foster or adoptive parent or supporting those who are. Go to AdoptUSKids.org or call 1-888-200-4005 (English) or 1-877-236-7831 (Spanish) to receive information about the foster care system and the adoption process.

Families and professionals can also find more information at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/

#IAmHHS: A Personal Loss Motivates Drive for Integrated Care Connecting Data to Save Lives

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