There are more than 10,000 children in North Carolina’s foster care system, and more than 2,000 of them are awaiting permanent, adoptive families.
This year two bills were signed into law that help normalize childhood for foster children by making sure they can participate in school activities and keeping them – if necessary – in the foster care system until age 21.
State Sen. Tamara Barringer, who represents Wake County, is an adoptive mother of three foster children.
“We have failed these children if they get to 21 and we turn them out,” she states. “We are failing them now at 18 when we’re turning them out.
“What we really want to have happen is that these children not age out at all, that they actually have a real family. ”
In the last legislative session, funding was allocated for a permanency initiative, which is a statewide effort between the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina and the state to help older youth in foster care move to permanent placement with guardians or adoption. So far 25 children have been placed in permanent homes.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and in North Carolina, a single person or married couple at least 18 years of age can be an adoptive family. There are no income or home ownership requirements.
Matt Anderson is senior director of business development and advocacy for the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, a partner organization of the state’s permanency initiative. He says his organization is happy to build forever families.
“This idea of building families, and supporting families, keeping families together – it just runs through the fabric of what we do, and it runs through the fabric of North Carolina, really,” he stresses.
Barringer says after fostering children for 10 years, she saw enough to know that something about the system must change.
“During that time we had children in our home that had been anywhere from grossly and tremendously neglected to frankly outright tortured by the people that should be protecting and loving them the most,” she relates.
According to the Children’s Action Network, nationwide each year 20,000 children age out of the foster care system, but experts say they are still in need of a family as they embark on work and college.
If you’re interested in fostering or adopting a child, you can go to chsnc.org for more information on how you can help.