Erie County Department of Social Services celebrates families & children; 90 adoptions have been finalized in 2020
Spotlight on need for more foster/adoptive parents for older children; Heart Gallery of WNY features youths in need of forever families
November is National Adoption Month and the Erie County Department of Social Services is celebrating with local families while encouraging other potential foster or adoptive parents to learn more about the difference they can make in a child’s life. ECDSS said adoption is a “permanency option” for children, and in 2020 the Erie County Department of Social Services’ staff has facilitated 90 adoption finalizations and is anticipating another 35 children will be adopted by this year’s end.
In Erie County, there are approximately 512 children in foster care, of which 166 have been freed for adoption. Some of these children have adoptive families and some do not. There are 31 children currently freed for adoption, but with no adoptive resource. The preferable path for children in foster care is to have their first placement be their last, in order to establish stability and continuity in the child’s life.
“There are many reasons to celebrate adoptions, but the biggest reason is that a child or children and a family are brought together to share a permanent bond. The need for permanent, loving homes for potential adoptees remains strong, and most of these are teens, sibling groups or youngsters with special needs,” Commissioner of Social Services Marie Cannon said. “No specific marital status or minimum income level is necessary to become a foster/adoptive parent, but a demonstrated love of children and commitment to their well-being is essential. It is an opportunity to change children’s lives by giving them the stability, love and family they need to grow into healthy adults, and I encourage anyone who is interested in being that positive change to please find out more.”
Call 716-858-7472 for more information or registration for an orientation session.
ECDSS’ adoption and homefinding teams support adoption efforts through partnerships with other entities charged with finding forever homes for foster children and youth. One such entity is Heart Gallery of WNY, featuring photographs of children/youth currently in foster care in the area and in need of permanent, stable and loving “forever families.” In addition to linking the featured youth with a permanent resource, Heart Gallery of WNY seeks to raise awareness of the need for foster and adoptive families, especially for older youth who need adoptive families or visiting resources.
The venue holds an annual event where children linked with the Heart Gallery are able to meet and engage with potential certified foster families in the Western New York area. In conjunction with the state Office of Children and Family Services, the gallery is hosting a virtual matching event this month for already-certified foster families. Nine children/youth will be featured in a virtual format in the matching event in hopes of helping them to find their forever family.
Children in need of their forever families will also be featured on the Heart Gallery Facebook page. Those interested in learning more about children in need of permanency can visit https://www.heartgallerynewyork.org/ to learn more about adoption from the region and across New York.
Cannon added, “Erie County currently has a need for supportive foster families to provide temporary, stable, nurturing homes for hundreds of vulnerable children. Many of these children are in foster care because they have been abused, neglected, abandoned or harmed, or because their parents were unable or unwilling to care for them. In these situations, family court may terminate the parental rights of the parents, freeing the child for adoption.”
A significant concern is children “aging out” of the system without being adopted by the time they are 18. Research shows these children are at a higher risk for homelessness, unemployment, pregnancy and incarceration. Nationwide, nearly 23,000 children age out and leave the system each year without the support needed to grow and thrive.
For more information on ECDSS homefinding, call 716-858-7274 or visit https://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/.