Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that since January more than 800 children from Virginia's foster care system have been adopted or matched with a family who is going through the process of adopting. The announcement continues the focus Governor McDonnell has placed on foster care and adoption since the launch of the "Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000" in May.
Speaking about today's announcement, Governor McDonnell said, "We are shining a light on some of the most vulnerable Virginians: kids who, through no fault of their own, do not have a family to count on for love and support. Children of all ages need a committed family, but the statistics on children who age out of the foster care system are particularly staggering. 94 percent will never finish college and many will be homeless within a year. I commend Secretary Kelly and the many dedicated Department of Social Services employees who champion this cause day in and day out and who have worked tirelessly to reach this milestone."
As a result of this Campaign, 16 of the 20 longest waiting youth are among the 800 children who have been adopted or matched with families. One of the longest waiting children who was recently matched had been in the foster care system for over 16 years and was eligible for adoption for 14 years. Speaking about the longest waiting youth, Commissioner Margaret Schultze of the Virginia Department of Social Services said, "We are happy that the 'Campaign for 1,000' has brought attention to these children who are without a long-term, loving family. The spotlight the Governor brings to this issue increases our chances to find parents and families."
In May, Governor McDonnell launched the "Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000" from the steps of the Governor's Mansion. Former First Lady Anne Holton joined Governor McDonnell at the launch. In late July, the Campaign held informational rallies in nine localities. More than 900 participants attended these events where potential adoptive parents learned more about children waiting for adoption. These events were supported by Casey Family Programs, a national foundation working to improve foster care, which has supplied funding and support to the Campaign.
One hundred available children have been profiled in the Campaign's first social media program: "100 Kids, 100 Days," which highlighted an individual child's picture and biographical data each day since July. Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly, who spearheads the Campaign for 1,000 on behalf of the Administration, stated, "We are encouraged by the success of the '100 Kids, 100 Days' program, which has received tremendous exposure online. Many people have told us they learned about children waiting for families through Twitter and Facebook, and some parents have come forward specifically for children we profiled. For kids waiting for an adoptive family, these efforts create opportunities for a forever home."
The Campaign's next social media efforts will highlight Virginians' support for adoption and provide a focus on foster children who are 16 years and older. These teenagers who are approaching the age of 18 are most at risk of aging out of the foster care system without being matched with a permanent family.
The Campaign for 1,000 leverages $1.5 million in new funding that is dedicated to extreme recruitment, general recruitment, and post adoptive services. Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Bill Hazel stated, "Initial grants were recently awarded, and will help greatly with our efforts to find permanent homes for foster children. As soon as the goal of matching 1,000 children is met, the focus will shift to those that have become available for adoption in recent months, since about 40 new children become available for adoption each month in Virginia. Our goal is to surpass the number of children waiting with a pool of parents who want to adopt out of the foster care system."
Secretary Kelly said, "Finding 1,000 permanent homes for children in our foster care system has been an ambitious undertaking, and we are learning a great deal about the system and the challenges that these children face in becoming adopted. We are excited about the new attention the campaign brings to these children, but we want to work on solidifying Virginia's commitment to these children in the weeks and months ahead. We still have a lot of work to do."