Posted by Tara Manthey on September 27th 2010
Minority, older and disabled children wait longer than average
LITTLE ROCK-An analysis of the 3,286 children adopted in Arkansas since 2002 shows that the state has doubled the number of children adopted each year and reduced the length of time they waited in foster care. The data also show that children waited an average of 2.5 years after entering the child welfare system until finding a "forever" family, according to the report by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
"In the life of a child, 2.5 years is a long time to be without the constant security and love that a permanent home provides," said Jennifer Ferguson, AACF Deputy Director. "Minority, disabled and other disadvantaged children waited even longer. There are several ways we can make this wait shorter for every child in the system."
The state can help foster children get into permanent homes faster by promoting solutions that are already working: ensuring adoptive families are available as soon as a child is legally able to be adopted, mobilizing local groups to recruit families and focusing efforts on older foster children, Ferguson said.
As of December 2009, 425 children were available for adoption in Arkansas. These children tend to be older than those already adopted (10 years old compared to 6 years old), they are in larger sibling groups, are more likely to be boys and are more likely to be multiracial. Many also have required therapy or have learning or developmental disabilities.
"There are loving families out there for each of these children," Ferguson said. "With a few changes we can get them matched up more quickly. Each foster child should be paired with an adoption specialist as soon as it's clear they will be eligible for adoption. We can't wait until all the paperwork is processed to start this important work."
Other findings of the report, "Finding a Forever Family: A Profile of Adopted Arkansas Children and Those Still Waiting for Homes":
- Children in the Delta waited twice as long for a permanent adoptive home as those in the northwest corner of the state.
- A white child waited an average of 33 months for adoption, a black child 37 months and a multiracial child 42 months.
- Older children wait longer: A 16-year-old waits on average 3.5 years, compared to a 1-year-old who typically waits a year and a half for adoption. The data don't include children who "age out" of the system by turning 18 without ever being adopted.
Families in Central Arkansas who've adopted children are available to talk to reporters by phone and in person today. Please contact Tara Manthey for more information: 501-371-9678, Ext. 111 or firstname.lastname@example.org