By Bill Baccaglini, President and CEO, The New York Foundling
When actress Sandra Bullock revealed in People Magazine that she adopted her second child from foster care, it was not only a demonstration of her love and support for that child, but a reminder to the rest of us about the more than 100,000 children in the United States who are hoping someday to be adopted. Our society has made great strides toward moving children from congregate care settings into foster homes and ultimately into adopted homes, but there is much more that needs to be done.
To begin with, there is a tremendous need for more families to open their homes to foster children. These children need loving foster parents to care for them either for a transitional period or longer-term. In some cases, these children have been through a lot. Many have experienced some form of trauma at a very young age. Especially now, at holiday time, we should remember that for some youngsters, a safe and stable home to live in may be the most precious gift they can hope for.
As with most gifts, those who give also receive. Foster parents continually tell us what a blessing these children are and how spiritually rewarding it is to be able to bring them into their homes. In fact, through the New York Foundling’s foster care program, we’ve seen many foster parents taking in multiple children over time as they recognize the joy that flows through their homes with each new addition.
Even with the help of these wonderful foster families – and we certainly need more of them – we still need to do more. Some children are in foster care temporarily and are eventually able to return to their biological parents. But there are many for whom that is not an option. For some, they move from foster home to foster home, from school to school, from neighborhood to neighborhood – never sure how long they’re going to be in one place.
That’s why Sandra Bullock’s spotlight on this issue is so important, and coverage like the TODAY Show will help us continue the discussion. No matter how caring and devoted foster parents may be, adoption provides a unique type of gift. When a foster parent adopts a child, they are letting that child know they are part of a permanent family – for the rest of their lives.
Toniann Gelardo and her daughter, seven-year-old Shay Anabelle Gelardo, a Staten Island family featured in the TODAY Show’s coverage, made their family official after two years of fostering. “It is the most amazing feeling in the world,” says Ms. Gelardo. “The greatest accomplishment in my lifetime.”
Foster families will say that making their loving family permanent through adoption provides them as many rewards as it provides to their child. Giving a child stability and love – reading bedtime stories, tucking them into bed, cheering them on at sporting events or praising good grades – showing love in ways large and small – means everything. Adoption makes those moments permanent, can drive away fear, conquer uncertainty and help children recover from the trauma of their young lives. It lets them know they have a home.