Rita L. SoronenThese Children are Not Someone Else’s Responsibility

By: Rita L. Soronen In: 2010 Family Philanthropy Conference| Corporate Philanthropy| Philanthropy

23 Nov 2010

As states continue to face declining revenues, shortfalls and drastic budget cuts, the impact is too often felt in the reduction or elimination of services to our most vulnerable citizens—abused, neglected, and abandoned children who linger in foster care in every community in the United States. Philanthropy must aggressively understand and assist in what can be seen as simply a government responsibility.

Today in America, 423,773 children have been removed from their family because of harm or imminent harm to them, and are in temporary and often transient foster care. Of those, 114,556 have experienced abuse that is so egregious, that they have been legally and permanently separated from their parents. They are now waiting to be adopted and many of these children wait five years or more, move three or more times while in care, and are often separated from their siblings. Sadly, last year, 29,000 children turned 18 and left the system, without the love, guidance or safety net of a family of their own.

During National Adoption Awareness month each November, and every day for more than 15 years, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has worked to elevate the awareness of these children and to dispel the myths and misperceptions about who they are and the complicated systems surrounding them. As a national nonprofit public charity, we are fortunate to have a legacy-based philanthropic partner with Wendy’s. Dave Thomas was adopted as a child, and was on his own at age 16, He keenly understood our target population and created the foundation to address their needs. Six years ago, taking to heart Mr. Thomas’ words—“these children are not someone else’s responsibility, they are our responsibility”—we dramatically shifted our business tactical plan and created signature efforts to continue to elevate awareness about these children, while working to get thousands adopted.

The shift resulted in the creation of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a signature grants program committed to funding aggressive, accountable, results-based efforts with one goal—assure adoptive homes for America’s longest-waiting and hardest-to-place children. Growing from a pilot program of seven sites in 2005, we are now funding 121 individual grants at adoption organizations, public and private, large and small, urban and rural in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four provinces in Canada. We also committed to long-term rigorous research of the model and its impact while looking at this unique philanthropic relationship between a nonprofit charity and a large corporation.

Childhood is fleeting, and a child without a family is no longer a child. We know from research that nearly half of Americans have been touched by adoption and that three in 10 have considered adoption. In order to assure homes for our children and drive more to consider foster care adoption, philanthropy must step in with focus, accountability, evidence and results. It is our responsibility. It is the right thing to do.

Rita L. Soronen is executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

4 Responses to These Children are Not Someone Else’s Responsibility

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November 23rd, 2010 at 12:12 pm

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CouncilonFoundations, Dick Baker. Dick Baker said: RT @COF_: Nov is Natl Adoption Awareness Month: These Children R Not Someone Else’s Responsibility, by Dave Thomas Fdn http://cot.ag/ghYJdG [...]

vickie jarosz

November 23rd, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I think the policy to find a blood relative, in so far that all possibilities need be exhausted prior to placing the child with an adoptive family is rediculous, and causes much of this lingering. This past Saturday a young boy (3.9 years) was placed into my home for adoption. At 9 months, He was abandoned by his paternal grandmother in an empty building, prior to that his mother was arrested for leaving him alone in a parked vehicle… he spent the next three years with a family member who was not interested in adopting him while the state searched for a biological relative to step up resulted in not one of them willing to adopt him unless it could be proven there was nothing wrong with him or at least that if there was the state would pay for all care necessary, and if the problem would become more critical they wanted to know now and get a guarantee of some sort that his special needs would stay mild… I suggest that only relatives who have immediate knowledge of the child and have had a relationship established already be eligible, and if they have not, and then have a short period of time to be located, with an even shorter period of time to decide. Foster to adoptive parents have already shown they are willing to take on the responsibility wth out a biological tie to the child. Get these kids a forever family with-in 6 months of TPR.

Janine Jones (@TexasGirl4Ever)

November 24th, 2010 at 10:57 am

I’m so glad to hear more people spreading the word about adoption and getting help to these children who need it. Many people don’t even know there is an “Adoption Month”. Hopefully with more people aware of adoption, we can get help to all of the kids who need it. Thanks for a wonderful article.

Jeanne Tate

November 24th, 2010 at 11:40 am

From my vantage point as a Florida-licensed adoption attorney for more than 28 years, I echo everything that is said I n this well written piece. We need a continued momentum that elevates our collective consciousness toward adoption and in the direction of what I affectionately refer to as a “forever family.” Without this heightened awareness, too many of our precious kids currently mired in foster care will see their adoption hopes and dreams vanquished, as they simply “age out” of the foster care system upon reaching their 18th birthday.
This need not be, in fact, it must not be the reality to which we consign these foster care children.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and over the past 10 years, just on National Adoption Day alone, the number of foster care children adopted into a loving “forever family” exceeds 25,000. While this number indeed is testament to a marvelous achievement, challenges remain and the enormity of the task is, in a word, daunting.
If you believe, as I passionately do, that every child deserves a family, then please help raise awareness toward adoption. Here are a few ways anyone can get involved:
Celebrate and praise everyone you know who adopts.
Share the news that there are more than 123,000 precious kids in foster care in America, desperate for a permanent, forever family.
Consider adopting a foster care child or sibling group, and if this is not realistic for you, encourage others to adopt and use the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys website (www.adoptionattorneys.org) to find the best adoption attorneys in your area.
Let’s ride this wave of positive awareness and grow adoptions of all our kids, but especially our beautiful foster care children, who through no fault of their own have been removed from their homes. Supporting “forever families” is a 24/7 endeavor, and we can all help.
Jeanne T. Tate is president of Heart of Adoptions, Inc., a board member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and an adjunct professor at the University of Florida College of Law.

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