Each November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month in the United States. The particular focus of this month is on celebrating and raising awareness of permanency achieved through the adoption of children in foster care.
Foster Care and Adoption Statistics and Facts
As we aim to educate others during National Adoption Awareness Month, it is important to share a few, key statistics and facts on foster care and adoption in the United States:
- With nearly 450,000 children in foster care, over 100,000 of those children are waiting to be adopted
- It is not uncommon for children to wait two or more years to be adopted once becoming adoption-eligible, with over 20% of children waiting five or more years; some children never get adopted before reaching adulthood
- The average age of children waiting to be adopted is eight-years-old, and the older the child, the less likely they are to be adopted
- Priority for sibling group adoption is offered for those willing to open their families to more than one child at a time; there is a great need for adoptive homes for large sibling groups in foster care
- Up to 75% of all adoptions in the U.S. this year were “open adoptions,” which allow for specific conversations, visits, and relationships to be maintained between adoptive families and biological families.
- It is important to note that the majority of children in foster care have “return home” case plans. That means that the end goal of their time in foster care is to return back home to a biological parent once it is determined that the home is safe. In order to preserve families, adoption is only determined as the best option once a “return home” plan is not possible.
At SOS Illinois, we work diligently to ensure that the siblings in our care find stability in “forever homes” through reunification, independence, or adoption. When adoption is the best option available, we strive to ensure that the sibling groups we serve are placed in a home together, allowing the sibling bond to remain intact.
We’re taking a moment this month to celebrate the adoptions achieved at SOS Illinois and beyond, and invite others to share their own adoption experiences with us by tagging us in social media posts or emailing our communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
J’ai’s Adoption Story
This November, we sat down with J’ai Brown—a friend and supporter of SOS Illinois who was adopted out of foster care—to talk about her experience within the foster care system and her ongoing journey of self-discovery, advocacy, and hope. We recognize that every adoption story is different, and that sensitivity around adoption and adoptive experiences is of the greatest importance. We are honored to have been invited to share Jai’s story.
Adoption through Foster Care
Similar to many children in foster care, including at SOS Illinois, J’ai’s placement in foster care—and later adoption— was difficult for both her and her birth family. J’ai’s biological mother, who eventually determined that foster-to-adoption was the right path for her and her child, took time to decide what was best.
“It was a really hard decision for her. She actually kept me up until around six months or so…she was leaving me with family and friends; she was basically trying to keep me in the friend and family network. The state stepped in at some point and said ‘you need to put her into the system because you aren’t able to care for her.”
After formally entering into foster care at six-months-old, J’ai shared the process of having lived in two foster homes before eventually being placed with her adoptive family.
“The first visit I had with my adoptive father, I actually called him ‘Daddy,’” J’ai smiled as she shared. “I connected to my father relatively early. We actually have a very strong relationship – I am a super, uber ‘Daddy’s Girl.’”
Adoption, Identity, and Relationships
While J’ai’s relationship with her adopted father and much of her family felt almost instinctive, discovering her identity as an adopted daughter has been a process; one that she worked through within her own family, her network of friends and mentors, and her academic and professional careers.
From first discovering the details of her early life through unsealing her adoption records, to exploring adoption therapy and uncovering the roots of her emotions, to embracing all her roles in life as a wife, mother, mentor, and friend, being adopted has shaped J’ai’s presence and purpose in the world.
“I am very fortunate that I had such a strong support system around me that encouraged me; that always did everything to make me understand that I am a blessing to this world.”
J’ai finds the way she interacts with and loves others is often connected to the values she gained in her childhood following her adoption. As her adoption experience has taught her how to deeply value the loving presence of others in her life, J’ai seeks to create sustainable relationships, and values connecting with both family and friends, especially those who understand the complicated emotions that she wrestles with as an adopted woman.
“[My adoption] has absolutely influenced the way I move through friendships, through my relationship with my husband, and absolutely through my relationship with my daughter.”
J’ai’s husband, she shared, stands as her best advocate, supporter, and partner as she continues to explore what it means to embrace her identity as adopted.
While many positive relationships have resulted from her adoption, J’ai also is honest about the insecurities she faces as she learns more of her adoption story.
“At the forefront of my mind, there were always questions of ‘who am I really and why was I given up for adoption?’”
In particular, J’ai has not always had the most positive relationship with her adoptive mother, and she shared the vulnerability she feels as she spends time questioning if the reason for their disconnect is the fact that she is adopted.
Though J’ai continues to navigate the complicated relationship with her mother, she uses it as a learning experience for how to step into her own role in motherhood.
“Being a mother is above all an amazing blessing to me… when I’m paying attention [to her], I want to make sure that she feels loved. I want her to recognize that her differences make her incredible. I want her to hear all the encouraging words that I’ve heard from my support system.”
The Call to Love: Advocacy During Adoption Awareness Month and Beyond
We are joining J’ai in raising awareness of the importance of sharing adoption stories, and the ways that we can all be advocates for those who have been adopted or are awaiting an adoptive family in foster care.
“It is really, really important that we encourage, we support, we talk about the positive aspects of adoption,” J’ai shared at the end of our interview. “That we talk about the positive aspects of the work that organizations like SOS [Illinois] do to keep families together; to build that confidence, to inspire that concept of family.”
Join J’ai and SOS Illinois by supporting us on social media through sharing our adoption posts and videos with others, and learn more ways to give back to our mission as we empower siblings in foster care on their path towards permanency. Help us, help our children to find their “forever home.”