Who are the children?
Today in Massachusetts, there are approximately 2,800 children in foster care with a goal of adoption. More than 800 of these children have no identified match and are waiting for a permanent family. The children MARE serves are all in the custody of the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) and are predominantly:
- School-aged Children - While there are waiting children from infants to teenagers, the greatest need exists for children over the age of six. It’s not too late for older children to fit into a family and they need the support of a parent who can guide them and experience growth together, while honoring their past experiences.
- Children of Color - More than 50% of waiting children are of African-American or Hispanic descent and are in need of families to support their cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity.
- Sibling Groups - Approximately 50% of waiting children have a sibling with who they hope to be adopted. Many children also have relationships that need to be maintained with siblings with whom they will not be placed.
- Children who have experienced trauma - All children in foster care have experienced some degree of trauma, loss, abuse or neglect and the way in which trauma impacts a child’s development varies dramatically from child to child. Having experienced the adults in their lives unreliable or unable to care for them, many of these children are slow to trust new people and may test a family with challenging behaviors until trust is won. Behaviors such as being withdrawn, argumentative, hoarding food, lying, or competing for attention are not uncommon as a child learns to establish a healthy attachment to their new family. Most of the waiting children benefit from counseling and other therapeutic services to which a worker will help their family connect.
- Children with emotional, physical or intellectual challenges - While most waiting children are generally healthy, some do have physical or medical challenges that can range from allergies or asthma to more severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy or genetic disorders. Some children in foster care have developmental and learning disabilities, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Speech Delays or Autism Spectrum Disorders, and many work with the supports of an Individualized Education Plan in their academic setting. Some children experience academic delays as a result of their frequent moves and lack of stability, while others have more organic developmental disabilities that are likely to impact them throughout their lives.
- At Legal Risk - Children are considered legally freed when the parental rights of their birth parents have been legally terminated. While parental rights must be terminated for an adoption to be finalized, children are often placed into a pre-adoptive home prior to the conclusion of this legal process, a situation referred to as legal risk. Many children waiting for adoption, and particularly those younger in age, join their adoptive families as a foster-to-adopt placement and may remain at legal risk for an indeterminate period of time.
- Have existing relationships - Open adoption refers to any type of contact between the child and his/her birth family after the adoption legalization. This ranges from annual cards and letters to occasional face-to-face contact. Open adoption agreements can be either informal or legally binding. The decision to have some form of open adoption between the birth and adoptive families will be determined in the best interest of the child and is often addressed as part of the legal process to terminate parental rights. Many waiting children also have important relationships with siblings, extended family and former foster families which they wish to maintain in an adoptive family.
- Wonderful children and teens! Despite adverse circumstances that resulted in the child needing an adoptive family, children and teens in foster care are often very resilient, and bring dynamic talents, interests and joy into their adoptive families. Come get to know some of the incredible youth waiting in foster care today in our Waiting Child Profiles.