Commentary: Foster children hope for their forever family

By Josette Manning

You hear it all the time in songs, movies and in everyday conversation this time of year — how wonderful it is to be “home for the holidays.” Well, this year, due to COVID-19, “home for the holidays” will look different for all of us. We may not be able to travel to see extended family or gather at home in the way we most enjoy, but we still have our home and our families and know that being apart isn’t forever. We know that we are still loved and supported by our families, even if we can’t be with them, and that gives us the hope we need to get through this difficult time.

Josette Manning

But what about a child in foster care?

A child in foster care faces an uncertain future, knowing they could possibly grow up without a forever family. Their glimmer of hope is the possibility that, someday, they might have a place to call home. Their hope and their dream of a family and a stable life, rests in our hands.

Research has shown that more than anything else in their lives, children need safe, stable and nurturing families. When an extreme stressor like the pandemic is added to the mix, that need is even more critical.

As we move into the holiday season, I ask you to think about the children across Delaware who need a forever family. While we dream about getting together again at a big event or what gifts we might get this year or when we can travel again, these youth are thinking about one thing: Will I ever have a family of my own?

The Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families recently celebrated National Adoption Month by finalizing the adoption of five children. When a child and family come together through the journey of adoption, no words can describe that feeling, even for us, as casual observers. The hope, the tears, the sheer joy — it makes you believe in miracles and makes every day of what we do at the department worth it. Those five children will spend the holidays this year with their own families, in their own homes, making memories for the rest of their lives.

There are about 499 children currently in our care in Delaware, and of those, 143 are ready and waiting to be adopted. Children and youth experiencing foster care have lived experiences that many of us cannot even imagine; however, they are some of the strongest, kindest and most resilient children you could ever meet. It’s on all of us to learn about their journey, acknowledge their trauma and understand that it does not define them. It’s on all of us to give them their best chance because they are the future. It’s not enough to sympathize with their plight. We must get involved if we want to make a difference.

If you are thinking that you cannot adopt a child or feel that you’re not ready, I’d encourage you to reach out to our adoption program manager to learn more. Gather as much information as possible, whether from books, discussions with other adoptive families or attendance at an information session with a licensed adoption agency, before deciding what you can or can’t do. Perhaps foster care or respite weekend care are good options for you.

But, even if adoption or foster care are not options for you right now, please take some time to learn about the many other ways you can help. There are opportunities to help our youth that can fit into any person’s life — no matter your age, social status, financial status or how busy you are — there are ways to help if you have the desire.

Holding on to hope in times of crisis has never been more important. This year, give the gift of hope to a child in need.

For more information on adoption in Delaware, please contact Adoption Program Manager Moira Dillon at 633-2658 or visit kids.delaware.gov. If you’d like to learn more about how to become a foster parent or how to give back to a foster child, please contact 633-2657 or email dscyf_fostercare@delaware.gov. For additional resources on how to help a child experiencing foster care, please go to this link.

Josette Manning is the secretary of Delaware’s Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, which promotes the safety and well-being of children through prevention, intervention, treatment and rehabilitative services.