National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize the thousands of children and youth in foster care across the United States who are waiting for a loving, permanent home. According to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), there are more than 4,500 children in foster care in Illinois waiting for a family to call their own.

For Illinois Youth in Care, adoption is the ultimate permanency goal. When children are placed in foster care, it is often because they have experienced abuse, neglect, or other trauma. They may have been separated from their parents or caregivers, and they may be struggling with feelings of loss, grief, and instability. These children come from diverse backgrounds and have a range of needs. Some are part of sibling groups, while others have medical or developmental needs. But all of them share a desire for a loving, permanent home.

Foster Youth Adoption Process

Greenlight Family Services works diligently to find forever families for youth in care. Greenlight manages the Adoption Listing Service for the state of Illinois (ALSI) as well as the Heart Gallery of Illinois, a web page dedicated to children in need of a permanent home.

Greenlight’s ALSI Program Supervisor, Shirica Roberson-Flowers, MS, recently shared how important a role the Heart Gallery of Illinois plays in finding homes for foster youth. “One child was having a difficult time being matched,” stated Roberson-Flowers. “After listing her on the Heart Gallery, her aunt, who had been looking for her for four years, reached out to Greenlight. We were able to begin the process to reunite her with her niece and pursue a legal adoption.”

Shirica finds her position supervising Greenlight’s Family Development Specialists incredibly fulfilling as she leads her team to go above and beyond to find families for youth in care. “We are just like a little family within Greenlight. Everyone is so dedicated to making sure youth have homes.”

“We work hard to reach out to all possible connections and bonds that youth already have through our Family Fact Finding sheet,” Shirica explains. “People would be surprised at how many matches come out of this process, whether a former teacher or distant relative. These connections are so rewarding for us to make; the youth are so happy to be matched with someone they are already connected to.”

Once a match is identified for a child, Greenlight conducts a full-disclosure meeting including DCFS, the child’s therapist, a Greenlight Family Development Specialist, the adoptive family, and at the end of the meeting the child is included. These meetings ensure the adoptive parents are aware of the child’s situation and gives everyone a chance to ask questions and advocate for needs.

“So much comes out of these meetings,” shared Shirica. “We learn things we didn’t know before. Sometimes we learn the child has another sibling living elsewhere, or of other familial bonds that might be preserved.” Greenlight encourages youth to maintain existing bonds through phone calls, video calls, and even letter writing.

After the full-disclosure meeting is completed, youth begin to have more contact and further establish a connection with their adoptive family. They have phone calls and meet and greets at restaurants and other locations. After spending time together in-person three times, youth stay overnight at their new home for the first time. The legal adoption process begins only after the child has transitioned into the home and remained for six months.

“The family and child can be a match on paper, but our goal is to ensure that in reality and in person it is truly a great match,” Shirica explains.

Greenlight Family Services assists more than 3,000 families per year to become a “legal” family through adoption. Adoption is a legal process which permanently gives parental rights to adoptive parents. It means taking responsibility for the child’s health, safety, and education. It is a lifelong commitment to a child. Greenlight offers relative and non-relative, second parent, stepparent, adult and DCFS foster parent adoption services. With these quality services, Greenlight works to achieve the best outcome for every child and young adult.

Adoption through foster care is not only important for the children and youth in care, but is also a rewarding and fulfilling experience for the adoptive family. It provides an opportunity to make a positive difference in a child’s life and creates a lifelong bond with a child who needs a loving, supportive family.

Please consider transforming a child’s life through adoption. For more information, please call Greenlight Family Services for a free consultation: 773-728-7800.