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Christine James-Brown Headshot

Faced with Faces

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Every once in a while I need grounding. Even though I deal every day with the issues facing children in foster care, I sometimes need to stand back -- away from the statistics and policy debates -- to see real children in need of real families. That's one of the reasons I appreciate November's National Adoption Month because it helps focus me on the faces of children in foster care.

Recently, after a long day at the office, I went searching -- my soul and the internet. I was having one of those moments when I needed to reboot. I ran across a segment on DC-based NBC4's Wednesday's Child -- the program that features foster children available for adoption during the news. It was a piece about a talented 14-year-old girl named Jennisfer who had big brown eyes and loves to draw and ride horses. Seeing her story reminded me of my own daughter when she was a child and how special our time together was.

Since I was already drawn in, I watched another segment about David, a cute young boy with Down syndrome who was having a fun-filled day at Gymboree. Both of these children are available for adoption from the foster care system. Despite their challenges it was clear that both children were lovable and in need of being loved. As I watched these two pieces, I choked up thinking again how lucky my own daughter was to have loving parents to share special moments with, help guide her decisions, and just give her a hug.

Still I needed to see more faces to drive home the importance of the work that we in the child welfare world. I logged onto a variety of adoption related sites, including AdoptUSKids.org. Gracing the front were teens Nickayla and Darrien of Kansas. These beautiful siblings with big smiles -- one loves to sing and the other enjoys sports -- desperately want to find a family and most importantly stay together.

Behind each of these faces and stories is a caring child welfare professional, working to ensure that children have a chance to be reunited with families or if this is not possible, have opportunities to get adopted. My hunt for faces and stories of children available for adoption also reminded me of all the outstanding work that child welfare workers do to ensure children get reunited with their birthparents and/or find new ones. These dedicated professionals work tirelessly to ensure a better life for children.

One such professional being honored this month as AdoptUSkids's Caseworker of the Month is Shanda Moorman, an adoption recruiter for Wendy's Wonderful Kids in Orlando who firmly believes that "every child is adoptable." And her work shows that. Due to her persistence and sensitivity, she recently was able to facilitate an interstate adoption of twins with significant medical conditions. Her excitement over seeing photos of the children laughing and happy with their new family showed the pride she takes in her work. Shanda is representative of so many outstanding child welfare professionals who view their profession as a calling.

Why is it important to put faces on this issue? That's because more than 110,000 children in the United States -- who have suffered from abuse and/or neglect -- have nowhere to go. They are wards of the state -- legally released from their families -- and waiting in the foster care system, hoping that a caring adult will come along and make the world right again for them. But 110,000 is just a number -- albeit a big one. Behind that number are real children who lives and futures have been upended and stolen from them by parents and situations that have let them down.

That's why my favorite day of National Adoption Month is National Adoption Day, when communities across the United States celebrate the making of new families. On this day, court systems nationwide help children heal and families come together by legally joining foster children with adoptive families. This ceremonial effort puts a face on the issue and symbolizes the importance of how strong families are the fundamental building blocks for communities.

If you have a few minutes this month, please take the time to search the Internet for the names and faces of children who want nothing more than to be loved. If you have room in your heart and home, consider adopting one. Just as importantly, take a moment to hug and care for your own children. Good parents are in demand... and they make a difference.