Today, at 25 years old and getting ready to finish my 3rd year in law school, I can say, without a hint of insincerity, that, were it not for my mother, father and brother (my adoptive family) - my story would have been, just another sad tale. Foster children are, by the very nature of their circumstance, more alone in this world than people may ever realize - when my family adopted me and provided me with a sense of permanency; a family I could call my own - I was given the most valuable gift that I will ever receive - a lifelong family bond and the knowledge that I was, finally, truly loved.
-Rand Getlin, 2004 Foster Youth Intern
I finally had a family of my own! I had parents, two sisters, and later another sister to make three. I had pets, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins that I would never have to leave again. I now had a permanent family to celebrate holidays and birthdays with. I had a family that I could love and who loved me for me. I had my own room with my own things and I knew that at the end of the day, I would come back to this very room every single night to go to sleep. I knew where home was always going to be. Click here for full speech. – Cayden Andrews, age 14, VT, adopted on National Adoption Day
Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,
--Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption
Research indicates that to develop normally a child must have a relationship with at least one adult who is nurturing, protective and fosters trust and security over time. Experts in early childhood stress the importance of consistency in a child’s life, particularly during the first five years of life. When these things are not present in a child’s life, it directly affect a child’s ability to trust, develop relationships and cope.
Research has also shown that children living in institutions and long term foster care are deprived of the type of permanency needed for normal development.
Children raised in these settings for long periods of time can develop life-long physical, emotional, and psychosocial problems. Even though these options offer a child some of the same elements found in a family, such as care, nourishment and protection, both research and experience has shown they do not produce the same outcomes for children.
This research only confirms what common sense already tells us: that the most natural, healthy place for a child to grow and develop is in a family. This concept, often referred to as “permanency”, has been the driving force behind federal and state laws on child welfare since the early 80s. The precise meaning of “permanency” or how it is achieved are subjects which continue to be studied and debated. According to one of our FYI interns, “permanency is not living in the same place for a long time, but rather having someone to call when you break up with your boyfriend or ask which cycle is best to wash your most delicate clothing.” For another, “it is having the certainty that your parents will be there for you no matter what.”
Children who find permanent families through adoption or guardianship have better educational and social outcomes than those who remain in foster care. Abandoned children who are adopted escape a life in institution, on the streets, or worse, an untimely death. It is for these reasons that CCAI works to support policymakers’ efforts to keep children in the families to which they were born and when that is not possible, to reconnect them with a loving, permanent family through adoption.
Ask any child who has been deprived of a family what it is they want most in life and they will almost always respond, “a family.” We cannot explain why this is or what it is about human nature that makes us instinctively crave the love of a family. But answering these questions is less important than answering the question: what role can we play in ensuring that every child in the world has a family to call their own?