Pandemic Increases Need For Adoptions | Newspaper

MARTINSBURG – November is National Adoption Month and according to a Journal of Pediatrics study, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 120,000 children and youth have lost a parent or guardian, further exposing them to risk of entering the foster care system.

In addition, across the country, more than 400,000 children and young people are placed in foster care.

“As we celebrate National Adoption Month in November, we also recognize that young people in foster care need families more than ever before,” said Dr. Antoinette Pigatt, satellite branch director at Martinsburg. for Bethany Christian Services of West Virginia. “Bethany Christian Services is a faith-based, not-for-profit fostering and adoption agency. Our goal is to make sure all children receive loving families. We don’t want to see children being treated in residential facilities or things like that. We believe that the best type of education for a child would be to receive a family environment.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 69,000 young people in foster care in the United States live in institutions, group homes and other environments, rather than with families.

Pigatt referred to the Journal of Pediatrics study throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in a conversation with The Journal and said many families and individuals have stepped forward to take care of children during the COVID pandemic. -19, but the need is still great.

She said researchers estimate COVID-19 has caused a 15% increase in the number of orphaned children.

“The pandemic has resulted in increased unemployment, food insecurity and housing instability, especially for the most vulnerable. The results for young people aging outside the foster care system are already grim and the pandemic has only made matters worse, ”Pigatt said.

Additionally, she said 32% of young people who are no longer in foster care have been waiting to be adopted by a family for more than three years. Each year, more than 23,000 children leave the foster care system across the country. The National Foster Youth Institute reports that about 4,600 of these young adults will immediately become homeless because they have nowhere to go.

“Now more than ever, the children and youth in the foster care system need people to open their homes and hearts to them. Bethany runs virtual information sessions for those who wish to adopt foster families, and we also offer virtual trainings for families to become licensed adoptive parents, ”said Pigatt. “Adoptive and foster parents don’t need to be married or have children. You can even have a full-time job and still adopt a child who is in the foster care system. We celebrate all kinds of families and we will accompany you on this journey.

Pigatt said that at Bethany Christian Services, the organization believes God designed families for children. BCS encourages anyone who has thought about adoption to consider children and youth who are in the foster care system.

“Consider those who are in the foster care system and who are unable to return to their biological families through no fault of their own,” Pigatt said. “Young people adopted in foster care are linked to a family that can provide them with stability, love, lasting bonds and advice. Finding permanence in a family through adoption leads to positive emotional, psychological and cognitive outcomes.

Two families who have been through Bethany Christian Services shared their anonymous experiences with The Journal regarding placement and adoption.

“As foster parents we often hear, ‘It’s great that your family is able to do this, I wish we could do that too, but we just don’t know if we would be able to do this too. give them back after getting attached, ”says one family. “When you first hear this statement it does indeed sound valid, but once you are in the trenches of a foster family, you quickly realize that what should motivate you and others is simple enough: fear shouldn’t be a child who leaves you after you get attached, but it should be a child who never knows your love.

The same family said that the pathways of fostering and adopting are undoubtedly hazy and uncertain and that it would be a lie to say the system is flawless.

“But there are a lot of things that are exceptionally clear and certain – there are countless vulnerable children who, for so many reasons, need a family to call their own. Sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes for a few months, sometimes for a few years, and sometimes forever. Through all the ups and downs of the trip, it’s still worth it.

“When the driving force is the fear that a child will never know your love and the love of your family, then any obstacles are worth it and are easier to overcome. If there is anything we can say to encourage those considering this trip it would be to remind you, this is for the children and not for ourselves, allow yourself to buckle up and remember, a placement temporary is not less than, those a small number of times still has an impact.

The First Family told those considering or learning about the placement or adoption journey, they would say that the time spent with the child, however short, will have an impact on them.

The second family brought up the idea that foster care is a challenge. The family said they cannot dispute this idea; However, they said there are times that outweigh all difficulties.

“You’ve probably heard that fostering is difficult. We would never dispute that – when we pack toys and tiny shoes for a child who is reunited with their family, we know that we are also slipping a little piece of our heart, ”the second family said. “Along with grief, however, there is gratitude for the time we have spent together. There is a lot of laughter as we teach the kids to floss, sleep on a bed with sheets and watch them run around the garden with our dog.

“Our first placement was a group of three who arrived 10 days before Christmas and stayed until early February. A week before they were reunited, the oldest little boy asked if he could try leading a bedtime story and prayers. We were able to help him coach him by reading a little book of short stories and explaining to him how to share his needs and fears with God, just as he had spoken to us.

Even though they don’t know where the children are since their first placement, they said they hope and pray that the older little boy will continue to pray and help his little sisters.

“We entered this situation thinking we were just going to foster, but when a call came in last May for four siblings to be adopted, we didn’t hesitate,” they said. “It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Our hearts are completely enveloped in our big, messy and noisy family. Our daughter and son who are always at home adore their siblings.

“We have a ‘boy’s dormitory’ and a ‘girl’s dormitory’ and we had to buy a bigger SUV and we rejoice in the shock when people realize that we have 10 kids.”

Every Wednesday, the family said their four adult children came home to meet for dinner and spend time with the younger ones.

“Sometimes, between saying ‘elbows on the table’ and ‘I don’t care whether you like vegetables or not,’ my husband and I exchange a look and a smile. We never planned it, but Proverbs 16: 9 reminds us that “we can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. “” The family said. “If you’ve been considering fostering, we want you to know that life is going to be complicated no matter what, so focus on what really matters, like being there for a child on the worst night of her life and still be there the next morning, and the next night, and the next morning, and all those little moments in between, as long as it takes to help them heal.

Pigatt said the most important thing you can give a child is love.

“Now more than ever, the children and youth in the foster care system need people to open their homes and hearts to them,” she said. “Being removed from your home as a child can be a very traumatic experience. If they were to leave this experience and enter a residential facility where there are a whole bunch of people they don’t know, it can also be traumatic. But if they were to leave their home and have a family experience where they have a temporary family with someone to say “I understand you are going through tough times, but I want to be here to go through these tough times for you”, that can reduce the impact of trauma on a child because they are given safety and love.

Bethany Christian Services works with DHHR in finding children’s homes. The organization maintains information in its office on a monthly basis and is available to speak to those interested or those with questions.

The next information meeting will take place on Tuesday.

“Bethany will support you throughout your adoption journey as you change everything for a child who needs security, love and connection. Call us for information on the information session,” a Pigatt said. “You can also support adoptive parents by preparing meals, offering help with errands or babysitting, especially during school hours, or you can donate to Bethany’s foster care program. to support children and families. ”

To read the full studies referenced above, visit www.jpeds.com/content/covid-19. For more information on Bethany Christian Services, visit www.bethany.org or call 304-620-2695

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