November is National Adoption Month!
Celebrate National Adoption Day with CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program™ participant, Erik Barrus, by watching the video of a special surprise he experienced at the 2015 Angels in Adoption™ Gala and reading his speech!
I first entered foster care when I was 14 years old and was placed in group homes the entire time because I was an undesirable, teenage male. The first two group homes I went into were little more than warehouses for children. They were cold…overcrowded…and unwelcoming. However, when I was 16 years old, I was placed at Open Gate Ranch and welcomed with open arms. I had a place to call home and people to call family. You see, the amazing couple that ran the Ranch, Craig and Becky Barrus, ended up adopting me as an adult when I was 18 years old. I need you all to understand this does NOT happen for most teenage boys in foster care! Not to mention the fact that children virtually never get adopted from group homes. But Craig and Becky have adopted a total of six boys, giving us all a forever family.
My adoptive parents have been a large influence in my life and have guided me to help others who are currently in foster care. They’ve taught me what it means to be a part of a family. For the first time I felt like I had a mother and father that loved and cared about me and I was their son. They taught by example how to give and receive love, and how families are always there for each other – through thick and thin. Some people say that blood is thicker than water. Though this may be somewhat true, my parents do not abide by that at all. They take boys into their home from all across the State of Montana and give them a safe refuge as well as unabashed love.
Children, even teenage boys, need adoption to feel love and permanency. That is a big reason why I applied to the CCAI Foster Youth Internship Program™ in D.C. this past summer. I have always wanted to work in an arena where I could effect change. CCAI and their internship gave me that opportunity. I was able to work with the Senate Finance Committee as they considered group home reform. This was a fortuitous placement, because much of my experience in foster care was in group homes. As a Foster Youth Intern, I was able to learn so much about how I can help children who are still in foster care and are hoping to find their own forever families. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute gave me the opportunity to share my story and use it to, hopefully, impact Members of Congress, and by extension, kids in foster care across the country.
Tonight, we celebrate those who step forward to provide children and youth loving families. They are truly terrestrial “angels.” My parents gave me the gift of family, as well as a chance at a bright future – things I didn’t have growing up and didn’t even think were attainable. Being part of a family was something I always hoped for, but never thought was possible for me to have. I honestly was not sure that I was worthy of such a beautiful gift. I am so grateful for this opportunity that I have been given to be here and speak to you about the importance of fostering and adopting children and youth. It is cliché, but children are the future and if we are failing them now then how can we expect them to succeed in the future. If they are not granted normalcy as a child how can they be expected to be “normal” adults.
My dad has always pushed me to do my best, try new things, and to expand my horizons. I cannot imagine being here in our nation’s capital to be a voice and representative for children in foster care if it were not for my father always pushing me out of my comfort zone and to strive for success. My dad and mom have helped to make me that man I am today and for that I will be forever grateful and forever in their debt.
Save the date for CCAI’s #GivingTuesday!
With more than 415,000 children in foster care and an additional 100,000 waiting to be adopted, CCAI is dedicated to raising awareness and providing programs that support the children across this nation and around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family. Choose CCAI on December 1st for #GivingTuesday and help us create a spectacular display of love and support for these vulnerable children. Your support will make the difference, each and every donation will make an impact!