Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet a group of adoptive parents at the Capitol as part of National Adoption Awareness Month. The stories they shared were moving.
One couple, Darryl and Charise Easter of Union County, were foster parents to three girls. Frequent court reviews and appearances became a regular part of their lives. After the Easters adopted their youngest daughter at age 7, she still asked when she would have to go see the judge again. Months later, she would still want reassurance when going to sleep that she would wake up the next morning in the same home with her same family.
Anecdotes, like this one, illustrate the constant uncertainty that troubles the lives of foster children across America. Such instability affects a child's ability to learn and develop healthy social and emotional behaviors. Another of the Easters' adopted daughters could not even read her own name when she first arrived at their home. By the time she finished first grade, however, she scored in the 91st percentile on the State Benchmark Exam, thanks to the structure and guidance provided by a consistent home and caring family.
Approximately 4,000 children are currently in the State of Arkansas's foster-care system. Nearly 500 of them are eligible for adoption and ready to find a permanent, loving family. Among those waiting to be adopted are hard-to-place children, sibling groups, and teens. Without the willingness of Arkansans to open their homes, many of these children will reach the age of 18 without ever experiencing the comfort and support of a stable family life.
As Governor, it is my goal to see that every child eligible for adoption finds a loving home. My wife, Ginger, was adopted at age four, after being in and out of several foster homes. Ginger and her sister, Jean, brought joy into the lives of their adoptive parents and were able to grow up with roots, strong family ties and stability. Other children in foster care should have this same opportunity to find the love and support they need to reach their full potential.
To bring more attention to the critical needs of these children and to all those who work tirelessly to place them in permanent homes, I am proclaiming November 19th as National Adoption Day in Arkansas.
Children find themselves in foster care for a variety of reasons, including an illness or death in the family, neglect, or abuse. I commend the foster and adoptive families throughout the State who open their homes and hearts to children whose families are in crisis. But the children are not the only ones who benefit. All the parents I met this past week insisted that they gained as much from the experience as the boys and girls they welcomed into their families. By providing a safe and secure environment, adoptive parents give children hope for a better life, and often improve their own lives as well.