Following National Adoption Awareness Month in November, the holiday season in December brings an opportunity to both celebrate families that have opened their homes and lives to children and raise community awareness about the need for more families to consider being foster adoptive parents. In Erie County there are currently approximately 780 children in foster care and 247 of those children available for adoption, with families committed to adopt nearly 80 percent of the youths available. In 2013 YTD, Erie County Department of Social Services' staff has facilitated 77 adoption finalizations, with 60 additional children awaiting scheduling of their adoptions by Erie County Family Court.
"Making the decision to adopt a child means making a decision to make a difference in someone's life. Right now there are children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without a permanent, caring, committed family around them to help them navigate through life. Like any child, these children need support and encouragement to survive and thrive as they mature, and it can all begin with the decision to adopt," said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. "An adoptive or foster family provides the warmth, strength, love, and acceptance that children need as they grow into adulthood. With the holidays approaching, that support structure means more than ever. For anyone who can consider opening their home to a child, I urge them to do so. It will ensure a bright future for a child who needs your help."
Erie County currently has a need for supportive foster families to provide temporary stable, nurturing homes for hundreds of vulnerable children. Many of these children are in foster care because they have been abused, neglected, abandoned, or harmed, or because their parents were unable or unwilling to care for them. In these situations, Family Court may terminate the parental rights of the parents, freeing the child for adoption. The preferable path for children in foster care is to have their first placement be their last, in order to establish stability and continuity in the child's life. A significant concern is children "aging out" of the system without being adopted by the time they are eighteen. Research shows that these children are at a higher risk for homelessness, unemployment, pregnancy, and incarceration. Nationwide, nearly 30,000 children age out and leave the system each year without the support needed to grow and thrive.
Erie County strongly supports adoption efforts through the work of the Department of Social Services' ("ECDSS") Adoption and Homefinding teams. In 2012, 139 adoptions were finalized in Erie County, while in 2013 YTD 77 children have been adopted, 60 additional children are awaiting court dates and an additional 44 are awaiting a committed adoptive home.
No specific marital status or minimum income level is necessary to become a foster/adoptive parent, but a demonstrated love of children and commitment to their well-being is essential. For more information, contact the ECDSS at (716) 858-72724 or at www2.erie.gov/socialservices/.