Project Zero

Awareness of this effort is new to me today but it IS still National Adoption Awareness Month and it’s original purpose was to find homes for kids in foster care, instead of letting them age out of the system. This effort comes from Arkansas, a state I have lived in, have genetic roots to and neighbors my home state of Missouri.

From their website LINK> Who We Are

Project Zero began as the Pulaski County Adoption Coalition, over 15 years ago, to further the cause of adoption in our county and state. The coalition was made up of adoption professionals, ministry and organizational leaders, DCFS staff, attorneys, adoptive parents, foster parents, and others who were passionate about adoption. In 2009, our coalition obtained it’s 501c3 non-profit status and pushed forward with new ideas and opportunities.

As time went on we realized that, although many of our events were productive, there was more work that needed to be done in the effort to link waiting children and adoptive families. Project Zero was born in the fall of 2011 as a result of that need for change. Project Zero became the ramped-up, overhauled, and statewide version of the coalition with a renewed goal to deliberately and purposefully pursue out-of-the-box ways to find forever families for kids in foster care who are waiting.

I should add that my mom’s half-sister Javene, who lived and died in Arkansas, adopted two children as well. It just seems that adoption really does run in my family (both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption). Even so, I do struggle with the way adoption has been and do believe in a need to reform the practice.

Project Zero has a LINK> YouTube channel. Here’s one for National Adoption Month – a music video titled Hold My Hand. The kids speak and it IS heartbreaking.

Adoption Halloween Theme

I just knew there had to be something somewhere that tied an adoption to the Halloween holiday. Sure enough. From LINK> Good Morning America dated Nov 2 2021.

Day care owner, Angie Sheppard (already the mother of 5) first met Shyla when she was 6. Two years later, on her Oct 29th birthday and dressed as a bailiff, she banged the judge’s gavel at the end of each of 15 adoptions finalized that day. The adoption ceremony was called  “Home for Halloween.” All the kids were dressed in costumes for the event.

According to Jenn Petion, president and CEO of Family Support Services of North Florida, ceremonies like “Home for Halloween” are not just fun celebrations but important tools to help kids who are newly-adopted move forward, especially around the holidays. “The holidays can be a particular particularly challenging time as they remember the family that they didn’t have and the pain of of not being able to be in a safe and loving home,” she said. “So to have a finalization event that’s tied to a holiday really starts to change those memories and allows them to symbolize the start of forever, the start of something new, and that they really can have that wonderful happy ending.”

Seeing some of the kids dressed up as superheroes was especially memorable for Petion. “I always think of our foster kids as superheroes, because they really have been through some of the most unimaginable things in their young lives. They are always superheroes in disguise.”

Angie Sheppard said she never expected to find herself in a courtroom adopting a daughter. “She is the life of the house now. Everybody just fell head over heels in love with her.” Shyla had actually asked Angie to be her mom.

National Adoption Awareness Month is recognized annually in November and is intended to bring attention to the more than 400,000 children are in the foster care system. 

National Adoption Month and Teens

It’s that time of year again. Yes, November. National Adoption Awareness Month.

From Child Welfare dot gov – National Adoption Month is an initiative of the Children’s Bureau that seeks to increase national awareness of adoption issues, bring attention to the need for adoptive families for teens in the US foster care system, and emphasize the value of youth engagement. We have focused our efforts on adoption for teens because we know that teens in foster care wait longer for permanency and are at higher risk of aging out than younger children. Teens need love, support, and a sense of belonging that families can provide. Securing lifelong connections for these teens, both legally and emotionally, is a critical component in determining their future achievement, health, and well-being.

This year’s National Adoption Month theme is “Conversations Matter.” Incorporating youth engagement into daily child welfare practice can start with a simple conversation. Listen to what the young person has to say, what their goals are, and how they feel about adoption. Create an environment where they can be honest and ask questions. Youth are the experts of their own lives, so let them partner with you in permanency planning and make decisions about their life.

In 2019, there were over 122,000 children and youth in foster care waiting to be adopted who are at risk of aging out without a permanent family connection. Approximately one in five children in the U.S. foster care system waiting to be adopted are teens. Teens, ages 15-18, wait significantly longer for permanency when compared to their peers. Only 5% of all children adopted in 2019 were 15-18 years old. There is a high risk of homelessness and human trafficking for teenagers who age out of foster care.

More statistics from 2019 (the most recent year data is available) – of the 122,000 children and youth waiting to be adopted: 52% are male, 48% are female, 22% are African American, 22% are Hispanic, 44% are white, while the average age is 8 years old – 11 percent are between 15 and 18 years old.

The History of National Adoption Month –

In 1976, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care.

In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. In 1995, President Clinton expanded the awareness week to the entire month of November.