"Virginia Adopts" campaign reaches major milestone

Marlene Jones | 10/2/2013, 3:48 p.m.
In just four months since its launch, "Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000" has helped more than 800 children from Virginia’s ...

— In just four months since its launch, "Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000" has helped more than 800 children from Virginia’s foster care system be adopted or be matched with a family who is going through the process of adopting.

As a result of the campaign, 16 of the 20 longest waiting youth are among the 800 children who have been adopted or matched with families. One of the longest waiting children who was recently matched had been in the foster care system for over 16 years and was eligible for adoption for 14 years.

The campaign is credited with shining a light on some of the most vulnerable Virginians -- children who, through no fault of their own, do not have a family to count on for love and support.

In late July, campaign leaders held informational rallies in nine localities. More than 900 participants attended these events where potential adoptive parents learned more about children waiting for adoption. The events were supported by Casey Family Programs, a national foundation working to improve foster care, which has supplied funding and support to the campaign.

Additionally, 100 available children have been profiled in the campaign’s first social media program: “100 Kids, 100 Days,” which highlighted an individual child’s picture and biographical data each day since July.

“We are encouraged by the success of the ‘100 Kids, 100 Days’ program, which has received tremendous exposure online," said Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly, who spearheads the campaign on behalf of the governor's administration. "Many people have told us they learned about children waiting for families through Twitter and Facebook, and some parents have come forward specifically for children we profiled.

"For kids waiting for an adoptive family, these efforts create opportunities for a forever home.”

State officials note that statistics on children who age out of the foster care system are particularly staggering, with 94 percent of the children never finishing college and many becoming homeless within a year.

The campaign’s next social media efforts will highlight Virginians’ support for adoption and provide a focus on foster children who are 16 years and older. These teenagers who are approaching the age of 18 are most at risk of aging out of the foster care system without being matched with a permanent family.

The campaign leverages $1.5 million in new funding that is dedicated to extreme recruitment, general recruitment, and post adoptive services.

“Initial grants were recently awarded, and will help greatly with our efforts to find permanent homes for foster children," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Bill Hazel. "As soon as the goal of matching 1,000 children is met, the focus will shift to those that have become available for adoption in recent months, since about 40 new children become available for adoption each month in Virginia.

"Our goal is to surpass the number of children waiting with a pool of parents who want to adopt out of the foster care system.”