teen girl-editNovember is National Adoption Month, so it seems fitting to take a moment to discuss how Kentucky’s foster care system is working for children waiting for a permanent home. The North American Council on Adoptable Children recently released adoption fact sheets for every state in the U.S. with data collected in 2011.

The fact sheets provide analysis on data indicators like the amount of time a child waits to be adopted, or the number of children that age out of the system. Kentucky’s fact sheet, like many other states, shows us that we have plenty of work to do in order to ensure that children and youth have safe, permanent homes.

Kentucky’s children in care are spending a significant amount of time in out-of-home placements. The average amount of time a child spent in care in Kentucky’s foster care system in 2011 was 3.2 years before exiting.  Children that exited due to adoption also waited an average of 3.2 years before it was finalized and permanency was reached. The study shows, as do many others that Kentucky needs to continue working to reduce the disproportionate amount of African American children spending time in foster care, as compared to their percent of the overall child population.

Foster care is not meant to be permanent, however 658 youth aged out of foster care without a permanent, legal family in 2011. Kentucky is one of several states that ensures that foster youth are supported in some capacities until age 21 if they choose, which is supposed to help the transition into adulthood go more smoothly. The extra support, though important, doesn’t ensure that the 658 youth that left care will have a permanent family to share Thanksgiving dinner with later this month.

The adoption fact sheets tell us what many of us already know; we have important improvements to make in our child welfare system. What the numbers don’t tell us are the personal stories of children like McKayla, whose story is here, waiting for a forever family.

We need to make children, especially our most vulnerable, a priority in Kentucky. Our parents, whether they are birth, relative or foster, need adequate support in order to provide children with safe and permanent homes.

If you are interested in becoming an adoptive or foster parent to a child in need, please call (800) 232-5437 to reach the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ adoption recruitment line. Or if you would like more information visit this website to find out more about being a foster or adoptive parent in Kentucky.