This Saturday is National Adoption Day! All through November, advocates, families, and communities from across the country have celebrated the importance of adoptive families with the goal of raising awareness of barriers to adoption for children in foster care. This year’s theme is “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family,” which specifically calls attention to older youth in care who need forever families.
Family support is essential to navigating the difficult transition to adulthood, and as we all know, the challenges of becoming financially and emotionally independent do not stop once you turn 18. This is especially true for youth coping with the trauma of abuse or neglect. In 2013, about 18% (515) of children who exited from our foster care system in Nebraska went to an adoptive family. The data on finding permanency for older youth, however, often tells a troubling story:
Comparing children waiting for adoption in Nebraska with those who actually exit to adoption shows a stark age gap. Children aged 11 to 15 were 23% of those waiting for adoption, but only 12.5% of those exiting to adoption. Children aged 16+ were 7.9% of those waiting for adoption, but represented only 2.4% of those leaving care for an adoptive family.
The good news is that timely permanency for children in state care has improved significantly, thanks to important efforts at the federal and state levels. In 2007, adoptions accounted for only 8.7% of exits, a rate which more than doubled by 2013. Our state has made progress for adoption in the way of introducing timelines for more timely permanency, improving supports to adoptive parents, and creating permanent guardianships, among many other victories for our kids.
Reducing barriers to adoption is just a piece of some broader improvements in Nebraska’s child welfare system. Just this past year, the Unicameral passed a bill to implement a Family Finding pilot project which would engage family members with the goal of creating a lifelong support network for foster youth, in addition to legislation to strengthen our new Bridge to Independence program, which provides important supports for youth who age out of the foster care system without a permanent family.
As we reflect on the recent efforts of our state to improve the child welfare system, it’s important to keep in mind that there is still plenty of work to be done. Ensuring that all kids have a family to call their own requires targeted recruitment strategies as well as robust supports for adoptive families to prevent reentry into foster care.
For more information about adoption in Nebraska, visit the state adoption homepage.
View our Adoption infographic here.
 Kids Count in Nebraska Report 2014.