RICHMOND, Va. -- When families look to adopt, they may not be thinking about teenagers or even pre-teens.
But with hundreds of older children looking for permanent homes, all of us as Virginians, need to work together to solve what should be considered a crisis.
On a blustery fall day at a local golf course recently, a fifteen-year-old girl is aiming for something most of us take for granted: a permanent family.
“I think about it every single day. I go sleep thinking about it, I wake up thinking about it,” said Majesty. “The hardest thing about not having a family is, it`s very hard because you don`t have nobody to help you, to support you and you`re on your own.”
Majesty is one of 800 Virginia children awaiting adoption, many of them living in group homes or foster homes, all waiting, hoping, dreaming, of something permanent.
As she swings a putter on the practice green at Hermitage Country Club, during a charity event hosted by Connecting Hearts, an organization that facilitates adoption in Virginia, she imagines what true familial support would be like.
“They would tell me, Majesty, you got a good score on that test, and I`m proud of you and they would reward me for the good behavior that I've done, instead of fooling around,” Majesty said.
As Majesty drains a 12-foot putt, a ‘Wow!' comes from the golf pro and others overseeing her progress.
Many of the 4,000 children in Virginia’s foster care system have been moved in and out of homes more than once. Some have suffered abuse.
“It`s not easy, our children do not come from picture-perfect families,” said Chloe Edwards a Family Recruitment Specialist and Outreach Coordinator with Connecting Hearts. “There`s trauma associated with being pulled out of that birth-family home.'
Edwards says the older children she represents face long odds.
“Those are mostly teenagers, in sibling groups,” said Edwards. “So, while that older child may not be as cute as that baby, they are still very much in need of a permanent, loving home.”
For that reason, as children go through the foster system, they and those who care for them, are acutely aware of the pressure to find them a home before they turn 18.
“Our children who do age out of the system, they succumb to homelessness, poverty, and drug addiction,” said Edwards. “Only three percent of children that age out of the system will obtain college degrees. They`re scared, they`re scared that they`re going to age out of the system without a family and they`re scared that they`re going to be on their own.”
Edwards says she's doing all she can to keep that from happening, to give the children whom she refers to as hers, the rich family life they deserve.
“I can`t do it alone,” Edwards said. “I`d like to challenge the community to be an advocate for our children. If you can`t adopt, spread the word. Get your businesses involved, get your church involved.”
As her gaze turns to Majesty on the practice green, the teenager is explaining to a reporter, "I love to dance. I just love reading and I love to smile a lot."
Despite a long hard journey, toward an uncertain destination, a bubbly teenager can`t stop imagining the day, that day, when a family says, ‘Come with us, you are a part of us now.’
“I would be so happy and I would be thanking them so much and I would be like, Oh my God, you, you like, you`re surprising me,” said Majesty. “And it would be touching my heart. And I would feel so happy and I would say thank you so much and I would just feel proud…on top the world.”
In Virginia, we have hundreds of children who are ready for foster to adoption. In other words, these children are ready to find their permanent and loving forever families. As Connecting Hearts –A Deborah J Johnston Charity, celebrates National Adoption Month, our “30 Kids in 30 Days” initiative is to bring awareness to 30 kids or sibling who are available for forever homes, but also to shed light on the other almost 700 children who may not be seen. Our kids are all ages and races, they were put in foster care due to no fault of their own. To learn more and becoming a foster to adoption parent(s) click here.