It is alarming to discover that there are more than 126,000 children in the United States who are placed in custody of the state and are in need of adoptive parents. Yet more and more people continue to go to independent agencies to adopt children.
Almost two-thirds of these 126,000 children awaiting adoption are over the age of 5, African-American, and have siblings. Of these "hard to place" children, 24 percent have waited in the foster care system to be adopted for five years or more! Even more disturbing, over half a million children are living in foster care in the United States. These statistics are shocking to say the least thus far there is no end in sight for these increasing rates.
It is a relief to know that Georgia's statistics are much better than the national average. The numbers of foster children in Georgia is uncertain because the numbers are constantly changing, as children enter and exit the state's custody, but it is believed to be close to 14,000. It is certain that at this time 275 children in Georgia are waiting to be adopted. To find out which children these are, you can check it out online at www.myturnnow.com, or call 1-800-603-1322. My Turn Now is an album consisting of children that are awaiting permanent adoptive parents.
The need still exists for more foster parents and more adoptive families. More 85 percent of the children being adopted are done so by their foster parents. Columbia County needs foster families, because they are a primary source for adoption. At present, there are only nine foster families in Columbia County and over 40 foster children, four of these children are available for adoption.
The following letter was written by Julie Miller, Columbia County Family Connections director. This is her story through her eyes:
"Being adopted has always been a mixed blessing. You miss out on some things, but you get so many others in return. You miss out on the biological connections such as, who do you look like and what traits you might have inherited from your parents, but that can also be a good thing. If your adopted parents aren't particularly smart or good looking, as an adoptive child you get to imagine that your "real' parents are dashing and quick on the uptake and that you inherited wonderful gifts from them. When they do something bone-headed, you can smile to yourself and thank your lucky stars that genetically you won't ever have to worry about traveling down that same path.
"What you get from your adopted parents are people who wanted a family so much that they were willing to open their hearts, their home and their pocketbook to a child of no consequence to them. That is a powerful testament to love. So to me, my adopted parents are my 'real' parents - the people who raised me and invested their time, money and effort into making me a productive human being.
"Yes, from time to time in my life, I have imagined looking for my biological parents and once even made a half-hearted try to get my adoption records opened up. But my letter to the government office that handles those things was returned as not a valid address. So I dropped it. It just wasn't worth the effort. Both of my parents are dead, so if I were truly interested in finding my birth parents, it wouldn't hurt my parents to do so. My only motivation to find my birth mother at this stage of life would be to let her know that her choice to give me up for adoption turned out OK. I am a happy adult with a family of my own. If I had given up a child for adoption, it would be comforting to know that.
"I guess what I would like for people to know about adoption from my perspective is that you are a real family. I don't think my parents could have loved me more or done more for me if I had been the product of their genes. I have an adopted sister and I can tell you that no biological tie could make us any closer than we already are.
"As a child, I wondered why my mother would have given me away. Was I unlovable? Was there something wrong with me? Was there something wrong with her? Why did she have a baby if she didn't want one? My parents did their best to answer those questions. I can't remember a time when I didn't know I was adopted. My parents explained the circumstances surrounding my birth. My mother was unmarried. My father wasn't. It was a time (1956) when girls who became pregnant out of wedlock (as they called it then) were humiliated and shunned by society. My birth mother spent time at a home for unwed mothers. Three days after I was born, I was adopted. My parents always told my sister and me that we were special because we were chosen. I think that's true of all children, adopted or not. They are special. They all deserve a good start in life. They all deserve to have a family who loves them."
Julie Miller is married and has three children. Her family lives in Evans.
o those of you who have adopted children, you are making more than just a difference in that one child's life; you are making a difference and an impact on all future generations in that child's life. If you are interested in finding out more about foster care or adoption, contact me at Columbia County Department of Family and Children Services, 541-1640.
(Christina Ruetz is Community Resource Specialist for the Columbia County Department of Family and Children Services.)
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