Zero kids waiting

On Monday night, my partner and I went to a fundraiser for the organization I used to work at, Minnesota Adoption Resource Network (now MN ADOPT, formerly MARN). The fundraiser was part of an awareness campaign that MN ADOPT has been promoting for the past year or so. Zero Kids Waiting aims to educate and promote foster care adoption in the state of Minnesota, especially teens who are considered "hard to adopt."

One of the things I loved most about working for MN ADOPT is that they are not a child placing agency. Their sole mission is to educate and support foster care adoption and to help provide post-adoption support for adoptees and adoptive families. Because MN ADOPT is not a child placing agency they are able to advocate on behalf of children, adult adoptees and adoptive families without the conflict of interest that a child placing agency might have in advocating more for adoptive parents than for the adoptees themelves. A number of the staff have personal connections with adoption as adoptees and adoptive parents. The executive director is an adoptee and an adoptive parent who has an open adoption relationship with her son's first mother. She has been a strong local activist on behalf of lobbying for open birth records and birth certificates for adoptees.

The campaign was born back in March of 2008. Like lots of couples, I was just sharing some of my frustrations about work, especially how it seemed that so many people didn't know much about foster care adoption. One of the things I told Mr. HM was that they could use his marketing skills to improve their agency materials.

Mr. HM's company regularly gives back to the community at large by donating to charity or non-profits. He approached his boss about doing their next donation to MN ADOPT. It turns out that Mr. HM's boss is a transracial adoptee and he was very excited about giving to MN ADOPT. Next thing we know, he joined the board and donated staff and time to create this PSA.

The PSA and Zero Kids Waiting campaign's message is:

There are approximately 650 kids in the state of Minnesota who need permanent families.

Think of it this way, with all the dinner tables in the state of Minnesota, there must be 650 extra places and families, of all kinds, who are willing to make room for our kids.

The world is full of problems that are very complex and hard, and nearly impossible to solve. This is not one of those challenges.

If you can’t open your home to one of these kids, you can at least give your support. “650” is not a big number, and we want it to be even smaller. Zero would be ideal.

[Visit the Zero Kids Waiting web site.]

One of the next steps that we are working on is how to reduce the bureaucracy and difficulties prospective adoptive families have in navigating the "system" so that these kids can have a real chance of being adopted. Because we KNOW there are families who want to adopt from foster care. Every time I read on a forum or blog or list-serve that families turned to international adoption because they tried to adopt from foster care first and were stymied by bureaucracy, it just makes me so frustrated.

From time to time, people have asked me if I'd ever adopt. I typically said "no" although that's not the whole truth. Mr. HM and I have talked about the possibility of some day adopting from foster care. I don't know if it will actualize, but if we ever decided to take that on, for sure it wouldn't be a typical scenario. I can imagine a few situations where we would adopt. For sure we'd take in a relative if needed. If either of our kids had a friend in trouble, we'd be open to caring for them if there was no way the kid could live at home. If we were to adopt, we probably would adopt or foster someone we know through our volunteering or mentoring, not someone we picked out from a photo site. In essence, we wouldn't be looking to expand our family but we would sure be responsive if asked.

We wouldn't change their name (unless they wanted to themselves), we wouldn't make them call us "mom" or "dad" since it's likely they'll have some kind of relationship with their parents, we wouldn't try to replace their parents in their hearts. We would be the place for them to come home to when they've grown up, we'd be their soft landing, their plan B if life doesn't quite work out they way they'd hoped. There was one teen at the fundraiser who I remember from the girl's group I helped facilitate when I worked at the County,who said, when asked what adoption means to her, "An adoptive parent would listen to me blab about my day, even the stupid things, and even when I go on and on and I don't make sense, they'd be the ones who'd listen. Even when I get moody, which I will, because I'm a teenager."

That's what a family is, and does, in my mind.

My whole family took part in this PSA. Mr. HM and I came up with some of the concepts, I helped educate the staff at the agency Mr. HM works at about the issues of children in foster care, and my kids were two of the voices in the PSA. Although I no longer work for MN ADOPT, I still volunteer when possible and am closely connected to their work.

I just thought some of you would like to know about some of the other things I do in my spare time. 🙂 And I want to publicly thank Mr. HM and everyone who worked and volunteered their time to create this PSA and to help educate people about foster care adoption.

ETA: of course, it should go without saying that I think the BEST way to ensure Zero Kids Waiting is to improve services, education and programs to help families with preventing out of home placement in the first place. However, while I am actively working on that end, I am still advocating for foster care adoption when appropriate.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.