Think back for a minute ... for some of us there are more of those available minutes to remember than others BUT ... think about when you were a child and you were afraid, truly afraid. I vividly remember the evening we received a late night phone call and my mother's brother had had a massive heart attack in another city, and the prognosis looked grim. It was doubtful my mother would arrive in time to get to see him again. Obviously, she was a hysterical mess and being only 9 years old, I was as well. I just wanted to hide in a closet because I was so scared. I didn't understand exactly what was going on, only that there was chaos all around and I felt anxiety and fear. I remember it as if it were yesterday.
Children in foster care and children waiting to be adopted feel like this each and every day. Children enter the foster care system in our country through no fault of their own. It's not like they put it on their bucket list, "I want to be in foster care." It's not a dream of a single child who has been in or will be in foster care. Yet, I'm not sure we have really done much to change, improve, restructure or wipe out our foster care system since its inception.
Join the discussion: Stories from Moms Over 50
There's not a single child in the system who has the same story. Just like no two births are alike, no two adoption stories are alike either. Each child's story is unique to that child. The one common thread that I do see time and time again in each child who is waiting to be adopted is the sad look on his or her face. A look that says, "I want a forever family, a place to call home, a place to live in safety, guidance, hope, love and opportunity." They aren't asking for a car or jewelry or fancy clothes or fine dining; they are just asking for a chance. A chance, and everyone reading this is capable of offering a chance.
Yes, I do realize that bringing an extra person into your home has financial implications and changes the day-to-day dynamics of your household, but so many other things do the same and yet we choose to do them. People were created to be loved and we need to take a chance on these amazing kids who are aging out of foster care to the tune of over 30,000 per year. That is a staggering number to me: 30,000 kids NEVER get a forever family. They are never told they are loved. They never get a birthday card or Christmas present. I could go on and on as my family has experienced this up close and personal! We know what happens when you take a risk and take that leap of faith and invest in someone. It is the most rewarding thing you will ever do. I cross my heart!
The definition of parenting in the dictionary, yes, I still use one that lives on my desk, is "a person who nurtures and raises a child; to be or act as a mother or father" and lastly "a person who brings up and cares for another." Do you realize it never mentioned birth or genetics, not once! I think a statistic you guys will find very interesting is one out of four kids adopted are adopted by a person over the age of 55! It's not about age; it's about love. It's about providing for someone in need. It's about loving someone who doesn't match you. We as adults are responsible for these children and young adults. Genetics is the least of what makes you a parent!
I tell you all this because tonight on the UP cable network, I have a new TV show, Family Addition with Leigh Anne Tuohy. We highlight families each week on Friday nights. Each of our families have obstacles to overcome and red tape to cut through. Team Tuohy, which consist of my daughter Collins, Sue Mitchell, Michael's tutor, whom Kathy Bates played in The Blind Side and myself. (Yes, the boys might make an occasional appearance.) We work side by side each week to ensure that these families have every opportunity made available to them to help them achieve their ultimate goal of having the child in their home become a forever member of their families.
We hope this show will inspire and motivate you to get out of your comfort zone and make a difference in the life of a child. There is something we all can do! You might not go out and adopt, but you can journey along with someone who has made that decision. You can be a part of their support group and lend a hand when needed. This is not about race or culture or religion or socioeconomic status ... it's about children! Every child in this world is unique and deserves a chance. Our goal is for Family Addition with Leigh Anne Tuohy to bring awareness and realization to everyone that there are no unwanted kids, just unfounded families.
So please, tune in and talk about this show at work, at home, in the grocery store, on your kids' field trips ... whenever and wherever you can and help us ensure that we are making every effort to provide for our next generation! Let's stop making this someone else's responsibility! This is or needs to be EVERYONE'S responsibility and if that becomes our platform then the world will become a better place.
UP is available to Dish Network Subscribers on Channel 188, DIRECTV channel 338, Verizon FiOS channel 224 and on local cable.
Photo credit: Leroy Hamilton, and follow him on Twitter, @Photoham!
Search AARP Blogs