November is National Adoption Month, and Child Advocates of Fort Bend is celebrating and supporting the many families in our community who have welcomed a child into their home through adoption—with a special spotlight on adoption by relatives.
“As advocates for the best interests of children in foster care, we at CASA have seen family take many forms. All loving families are beautiful,” said Ruthanne Mefford, CEO of Child Advocates of Fort Bend.
When we think about adoption from foster care, many of us think of it in terms of adoption by a non-relative. What we don’t all realize, however, is that adoption can take many forms. It’s also quite common for a child to be adopted by or live with a relative or family friend, Mefford explained.
“Often, when a child cannot safely go back home with their parents, then their grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members step up to care for them. This is known in the system as ‘kinship care,’” Mefford said. “In some cases, children live with family friends, coaches, teachers or mentors – ‘fictive kin.’”
In fact, last year, more than 2,500 of the 5,270 children adopted from foster care statewide were adopted by family members. Keeping children with people they know is what CASA volunteers and professionals in the system strive for, because it helps keep them connected with their community and loved ones.
Take this story of Mabel, a newborn who tested positive for methamphetamines and marijuana at birth.
Mabel fared well after being born with potent drugs in her system, however, the mother’s substance abuse issues prevented her from caring for Mabel and her five siblings who were already living with their maternal grandmother. Sadly, the mother was unable to get the help she needed to maintain sobriety. As a result, she was unable to bond with her newborn child. Fortunately, the grandmother was willing to take on the role as the child’s mother.
Several months after Mabel was born, the mother was tragically killed in a car accident and the grandmother was devasted with the loss of her daughter. The children would never be able to see their mother healthy and sober again. The CASA community came together to provide the grandmother with resources for the children and donated funds to allow her to properly bury her daughter. While the newborn will never know her biological mother, she has always had a family member willing to care for her. The grandmother will officially become the legal parent of her granddaughter on National Adoption Day in Fort Bend County!
CASA volunteers are everyday citizens from the community who are screened, trained and appointed by a judge to advocate for a child’s best interest in court. They work collaboratively with the professionals on the child’s case, including the caseworker, attorneys and others. Their top priority is to advocate for the child to reunify with their parents whenever safe and possible. When this is not an option, they advocate for the child to live with and be adopted by other family members or friends, or with a caring adoptive family.
“This month, we’re taking the time to show our appreciation for the diverse families in our community who are nurturing and raising children they’ve adopted from foster care,” Mefford said. “Thank you for giving them a safe, permanent and unconditionally loving home where they can heal and grow!”
For more information on the work of CASA volunteers and to get involved, visit www.cafb.org.