November is National Adoption Awareness Month

Submitted by Eagle Village

HERSEY — Nov. 1 marks the beginning of National Adoption Awareness Month, a nationwide push to raise awareness about the nearly 112,000 kids in the United States waiting to find forever families. In Michigan alone there are 3,875 kids, ages newborn to 17 without permanent homes or family systems.

Many of these kids are over 8 years old, a fact that can put them at risk to age out of the foster care system without ever being adopted. Common misconceptions about the baggage older children carry or fears of their inability to connect with new families are leading this already vulnerable group to further harm.

“Teenagers in foster care are not as challenging as we like to think they are,” says Micaela Chappelle, Eagle Village Family Therapist. “Although they do come with their own set of issues, they are willing to work through their issues as long as they know they have a supportive adult standing by them.”

Lack of families for teens in foster care have repercussions that can be felt for generations to come. Lacking necessary support systems, only 3 percent of former foster kids graduate college and 25 percent of former foster kids wind up homeless by age 22.

Beyond these large social issues, lack of family makes for deeply personal struggles for these teens as well. Where do former foster kids go for the holidays? Who do they call when they need advice on a car loan? Who will be grandparents for their own future children?

“[Eli said] I just have a cold and I don’t know what to do, what to take,” said Melissa Keating, director of community services at Eagle Village, reflecting on a conversation with an 18-year-old now in independent living without hope for an adoption. She directed him to the drug store with a few suggestions of things to take. “He’s like, ‘Thanks, I really appreciate it… I didn’t have anybody to ask these questions.’”

With the opioid crisis sweeping through the U.S., a rise in the number of children in foster care is anticipated, bringing with it the possibility for even more stories like this one.

What can help? Individuals who are willing to step forward and offer a permanent home to these teens.

“I see teens who want to be successful. I see teens with great potential, teens who have not been able to unlock their potential because of their life circumstances,” Chappelle continues. “When they know they have someone supporting them they are more likely to overcome those challenges and become successful adults themselves.”

But do kids so close to aging out of the system really want to be adopted?

“No one likes to be alone,” said Devon, a teenager adopted by a family through Eagle Village. He describes his adoption day as the highlight of his life. “Having a family [now], just knowing there’s someone there for you whenever you need them… I never had that growing up and it’s just amazing.”

Getting involved starts with a phone call. Talk to an adoption specialist at Eagle Village today at (231) 832-7270.

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