Every year in May, during the holiday weekend as the nation celebrates Memorial Day and remembers those who died in our nation’s service, I call my grandmother to wish her a Happy Memorial Day. While she did not serve personally, her brothers and husband did. We often talk about her brother Ralph who died at the age of 19 as he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His ship, the USS Indianapolis, was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine in the Pacific Ocean on July 30, 1945–just two weeks before the nation celebrated “Victory over Japan” on August 15. My grandmother has shared with me how her family was still mourning the very recent loss of her brother as the rest of nation cheered that day. I call my grandmother every Memorial Day in part because I can–she is the matriarch of my father’s family and I enjoy talking to her. But I also call because her story is my story through our shared family history, and I want her to know that someone remembers her brother’s—and by extension her family’s—sacrifice.
In the world of child advocacy, May is also when we celebrate National Foster Care Month. Originally designated by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 20 years ago, National Foster Care Month (NFCM) provides an annual opportunity to recognize the approximately 400,000 children and youth living in foster care, as well as their foster parents, child-welfare workers, advocates and mentors. It also continues to bring attention to the many challenges faced by children and youth in foster care. Although foster care is intended to be temporary, children and youth remain in the system for an average of two years, and more than 23,400 youth age out of foster care each year without reunification or adoption.
At CCAI, we are keenly aware of the heart cries of these children to be part of a safe, loving and forever family—and this May we are focused on raising awareness about the challenges that older children and youth face in finding their forever families. Did you know that of the 101,666 children available for adoption out of foster care in FY 2012, only 52,039 were adopted? And sadly, for children age nine or older, who make up 48% of the total number of children in foster care, only 25% (13,184) from this age group were adopted (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013). We know that without the security and support of a family, those who age out of foster care struggle to obtain housing, insurance, higher education and employment. We also know that all too often laws and policies create barriers that make it difficult for children to find their forever families, and thus CCAI’s mission is to identify any such barriers and support policymakers as they remedy them.
President Obama expressed his support for National Foster Care Month in an official Presidential Proclamation; both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives registered their support through Resolutions. Add your voice to theirs! This May, we invite you to consider ways you might become more involved in the lives of children and youth in foster care – because every single child deserves the opportunity to call a grandparent of their very own on Memorial Day and learn parts of our nation’s history through a special connection with someone who lived it.
Becky Weichhand, Director of Policy, CCAI