Weekly Columns

Crisp air echoing with crunching leaves is the signal that Thanksgiving and the twilight of the year are upon us. Our thoughts turn to family, pigskins, and time-honored traditions of this treasured time of year. Unfortunately, there are many foster children who have never experienced the joy of a family gathering and the warm love that comes from a firm foundation in family. This is a disheartening circumstance that we are challenged to correct.  

Abuse and neglect force nearly 700 new children into the child welfare system every day, amounting to 4,852 children per week. Once a child enters into this system he or she is placed in a foster home, group home, or an institutional setting where they remain until they are adopted or “age out” of the program. Today, there are more than 100,000 children awaiting the dream of a forever family to call their own.  

To raise awareness of this issue, Congress passed a resolution recognizing November as National Adoption Month and November 19th as National Adoption Day. In Arkansas there are currently 3,600 children living in the national foster care system. I am proud to join a bipartisan group of my colleagues in introducing this resolution in hopes to encourage families in Arkansas and across this great nation to open their hearts and homes and give the blessing of a bright future. 

Thousands of children and families have been positively impacted by the creation of National Adoption Day in 2000, with more than 35,000 adoptions being finalized since we began recognizing this day. I am honored to say that these efforts encouraged the adoption of 4,800 children into safe, permanent homes last year alone.  

Every child deserves the chance to grow up happy and healthy. Research continues to show that children need the love and support of caring adults in order for them to thrive. Similarly, foster children who are adopted rather than “age out” of the system experience significantly better outcomes throughout their lives.  Children who have been in the foster care system for an extended period begin to lose their sense of self and trust in adults. This vulnerability, caused by no fault of their own, makes them a unique subset in society that we must do everything in our power to protect and to ensure that they have the necessary tools to live a normal, healthy life. 

I am encouraged by the work being done to raise awareness on this important issue. We are blessed in Arkansas to have such outstanding advocates for adoption. Over the past several years these crusaders, in their dedication to children, have been recognized for their efforts by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute which coordinates the Angels in Adoption program. This honors outstanding individuals for their dedication and commitment to providing children with the protection, permanency, safety and love of a family. 

The significance of a loving, supportive home for a child to grow up in can never be understated. Families across the state are committed to sharing their love with children who need forever homes. With over 600 adoptions last year in Arkansas, I am proud to say that we are committed to making this a reality. 

This Thanksgiving, as we count our blessings and enjoy the holiday with our families, remember the support of loved ones is the cornerstone of prosperity. Let us recognize this importance on our lives and keep the children who will go without permanent homes this year in our hearts.