December 05, 2013

By Karen Bass


There are currently approximately 400,000 kids in foster care nationwide and over 100,000 awaiting adoption. As we work to ensure that all children have the opportunity to grow up in a loving home, we need to face the realities that African American children face in the foster care system. Even though black children are fourteen percent of all American children they are twenty-seven percent of the children in the foster care system. These numbers are even more disproportional here in Los Angeles where eight out of every 100 children in Los Angeles County are black, but twenty-nine out of every 100 children in foster care are black.

And it is not just that there are more black children in the foster care system, but once in foster care African-American children remain in the system on average far longer than other children, and are less likely to be reunited with their parents.

My colleagues and I in the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the bipartisan Promoting Adoption and Legal Guardianship for Children in Foster Care Act. This bill will help more children find permanent homes with adoptive parents, legal guardians, and relative caregivers.

But we need to do more, and we need to take consequential action to ensure that children in the system find a loving home and are not victimized. Earlier this year I introduced legislation to establish training programs so child welfare agencies will have the resources to detect children at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking and have the ability to help children that have been subject to traumatization and victimization.

To ensure that a generation of African American children is not left behind, government is one tool, but the private and nonprofit sectors also need to step up and lead. Churches, faith-based organizations, and other community organizations need to both lead and work together to move African American children into permanent and loving families.

Parents, caregivers, social workers, and advocates are working every day to help children in the foster care system, and Congress is working across party lines to give children in all states and from all backgrounds an opportunity to grow up in a stable and loving family.

We simply must make it a priority in the African American community to do what we need to do to ensure that children in the foster care system find a permanent home. The task is not easy, but never has it been more necessary.

Love makes a family. And in Los Angeles and throughout the United States families have opened their hearts to adopt children from all different backgrounds and nationalities.

I want to thank and commend the millions of American families who have made the important choice to adopt a child. For these parents there is no such thing as an unwanted child.

Last month President Obama proclaimed November to be “National Adoption Month.” It takes a village to adopt a child. As well as parents, I want to recognize the incredible work of public and private adoption agencies, adoption lawyers, social workers, and other adoption professionals who work untold hours to find the best family support for children and teenagers. We have made the system better, but it needs more work. With action in Congress, combined with the efforts of nonprofits and selfless individuals we will ensure that every child has a loving place to call home.

Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) serves as Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, a group of 118 bipartisan members of the House of Representatives working to provide a forum to discuss the challenges facing all foster youth and develop policy recommendations for improving child welfare outcomes.

Category: Opinion