By Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO
November is National Adoption Month, when we raise awareness of the thousands of children in Texas foster care who are currently awaiting adoption by a loving family. It’s also a time of excitement, with Adoption Day festivities taking place at local courthouses and child welfare organizations thanking and celebrating the many families who have welcomed a child into their home through adoption.
When people think about adoption through the foster care system, many might think of it in terms of adoption by a non-relative, someone with no prior relationship with the child or family. In fact, it’s quite common for news coverage of adoption ceremonies and adoptive families to focus solely on this. But what many people don’t know is that it’s actually just as common for a child to be adopted by a relative or family friend. Last year, more than 2,500 of the 5,270 consummated adoptions in the Texas foster care system were by a relative.
Children do better when they can safely remain connected with their families, loved ones and communities. Removal from home is a traumatic process for a child, as they are taken away from everything and everyone they know. Understanding this, the top priority for CPS and CASA is to support parents so that their child can come back home. But when parental reunification is not safe or possible, adoption by a family member or a family friend who has a strong relationship with the child—keeping them connected with people they know and trust—is the next best outcome.
Last year, of the 9,219 cases CASA advocates helped close, 76% of them ended with the child returning to family:
- 3,928 ended with the child safely returning home,
- 2,307 ended with custody going to a relative, and
- 831 ended with adoption by a relative.
With the expansion of our Collaborative Family Engagement approach and the statewide child welfare system’s continued shift towards focusing on, engaging and strengthening families, we’re hopeful that this number will continue to grow.
In celebration of Adoption Month, we’re honored to feature a testimonial from loving adoptive mother Kalynda, who dives in to what the process looked like for her and her three children. It hasn’t always been easy, but as she puts it: “Looking back, at all the ups and downs, I wouldn’t change a thing.” We’re also diving into two Collaborative Family Engagement tools, Connectedness Maps and Ecomaps, which are great tools to help CASA volunteers and other advocates find and engage family and fictive kin connections for children.
During this Adoption Month and beyond, I hope you’ll join us in showing your appreciation and support for the diverse families in our communities who are nurturing and raising children who’ve experienced foster care. If you’ve welcomed a child into your family through non-relative adoption, thank you. If you’re a grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, mentor or family friend who is raising a loved one, thank you. All adoptive families are beautiful!