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Commentary

Kids in Search of Open Doors and Open Hearts

November 20, 2002|Michael Nash | Michael Nash is presiding judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court. Web site: www.national adoptionday.org

Today in the United States there are more than 500,000 children in foster care, approximately 100,000 of them in California. More than 131,000 will never be able to return to their biological families. By finding loving, permanent families for these children, we can create a better future for them and for our nation.

With an estimated 32,000 children in foster care and thousands more entering the system each year, Los Angeles County has the nation's largest foster-care system. About 3,000 are waiting to be adopted. Having served in the Juvenile Court since 1990, I see the challenges faced by these children. With the support of a loving family, any one of them can be given the keys to long-term health and success.

On Saturday, my colleagues and I will join with judges across the country who have volunteered their time to open the courthouse doors to finalize the adoptions of hundreds of children in foster care.

Through a coalition of volunteer lawyers, foster-care professionals, child advocates and national partners -- the Alliance for Children's Rights, Casey Family Services, Children's Action Network, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Freddie Mac Foundation and Target Corp. -- we will expedite the process for many families.

Four in 10 Americans have considered adoption, according to a survey funded by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. If only one out of 500 Americans adopted a child from foster care, the 131,000 children in foster care nationwide waiting for adoption would have permanent families.

Thanks to changes in state and federal laws, adoption from foster care is easier than ever, regardless of age, gender, race or marital status.

Adopting children from foster care is virtually free. Programs provided by state and federal governments have made it possible for many families and single people with low or moderate incomes to adopt children from foster care. These programs provide cash benefits, payment of nonrecurring adoption expenses, medical assistance and social services.

A growing number of employers offer adoption assistance as part of their benefits packages, including time off for maternity/paternity leave, financial incentives and other benefits. Congress has made federal tax credits available. A revised adoption tax credit, effective in January, increases to $10,000.

All foster children are in the system because of abuse or neglect by their parents -- not because the children did anything wrong. Giving them a chance to grow up in loving and supportive homes benefits us all.

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