SEATTLE - With this week's observance of National Adoption Day, thousands of Washington State children have an early holiday wish: They want a family. Nearly 3,000 Evergreen State children are lingering in the foster care system waiting for what Sarah Melick, an adoption specialist for Lutheran Adoption Service
, calls their "forever family."
"The 16-year-old on my case load is just longing for that family: a dad to take him fishing and a mom to give him hugs. Every time you ask him 'What kind of family are you looking for?' that has been his answer for the past three years."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says more than 2,800 Washington State children were in foster care awaiting adoption as of late 2009. Melick says adopting a child from the foster care system is not expensive, and families receive resources to help both the child and family make the adjustment.
Melick is frustrated to see many U.S. families going abroad to adopt children, while thousands in this country await homes. Although some foster kids initially have special needs, she claims they make dramatic improvements once they're in a stable family - which is good news, compared to some of the challenges in adopting from foreign countries.
"We've heard stories in the news where they just are not working out from Russia. You're dealing with kids that are pretty much left in cribs and aren't getting that affectionate hug they need from their parents or a caregiver."
Many Washington children waiting for their "forever family" are between the ages of 6 and 17.
Washington adoption statistics are available at www.hunter.cuny.edu