Illinois Celebrates Adoption aims at finding homes for foster childrenPhoto courtesy of the Mueller family The Mueller family, from left: Passia, 10, dad William Mueller, Joshua, 12, Jacob, 12, mom Jaymee Loftin-Mueller, Tabetha, 5, Shauna, 12, Kyle, 10, and Mitchell 8.
20,000 kids in need of families Illinois Celebrates Adoption aims at finding homes for foster children
"Every child deserves a family." That statement is the motivation behind National Adoption Day on Nov. 22. This year, for the first time, Illinois will join the celebration.
On Nov. 21, local families will converge on the 17th floor of the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington, in downtown Chicago, to finalize adoptions, share information about adoption and post-adoptive services and celebrate.
In Illinois, more than 20,000 children live in foster homes, more than 60 percent of those children live in Cook County. Most of the children in foster homes are legally eligible for adoption. But, in 2002, only 3,247 found adoptive families. Those numbers are complicated by the fact that many children not in permanent homes also have special needs.
Shauna Mueller is 12 and her adoption was finalized in early October. But she is a child who could have easily been left in the foster-care system.
"Shauna was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and cerebral palsy. She has special needs," says her mother, Jaymee Loftin-Mueller. "She was one of those kids that ‘nobody wanted.’"
In addition to Shauna, Loftin-Mueller and her husband, William Mueller, have three biological children and a second adopted daughter who was the victim of shaken baby syndrome and lives with developmental delays and seizures. Their family also includes two foster sons, twin boys with severe mental retardation related to drugs their mother took while pregnant. They are hoping to adopt the boys soon.
"People always tell me how lucky these children are, but the most important thing to know is that they change your lives as much as you change theirs," says Loftin-Mueller.
In Illinois, there is also a large disparity in the race and ethnicity of children available for adoption. More than 73 percent of the children adopted in 2002 were African American with another 8 percent categorized as Hispanic or non-white. The racial disparity of children in the system has been a source of controversy between the African American community and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. It is something recently appointed DCFS Director Bryan Samuels has promised to investigate.
Loftin-Mueller and Dana Corman, a local adoption attorney and chair of Illinois Celebrates Adoption, like to remind prospective parents that a loving home comes in many forms.
"Virtually anyone can adopt and adoptions can occur at all stages of life. Adoptive parents can be all ages and all races, as can adoptive children," says Corman.
Loftin-Mueller began as a foster parent before she was married. "When I got married, I had 6 foster children," she says. "We would adopt more if the state would let us."
"Because of National Adoption Day, more children now have families," says Corman. "We need to heighten awareness about adoption and encourage other families to adopt."
According to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, four in 10 adults have considered adoption. If one out of 500 Americans adopted out of the foster care system, most children available for adoption would have homes. For more information on Illinois’ National Adoption Day celebration call (312) 786-6000. For more information on adoption visit www.nationaladoptionday.org.
Lenna Silberman Scott