Why Are We Casting Older Foster Youth Aside?

She has to be under the age of 5. Otherwise, I don’t want her.

I have been working with children, youth and families for over 30 years. During the past three decades, there’s nothing that pierces my heart more than comments like this — knowing that once children reach a certain age, they are no longer wanted.

What’s worse? The children know it. Those children grow older and lose hope that they’ll ever have a forever home. They internalize this and begin to believe they don’t need to be adopted.

This is wrong.

November is National Adoption Month and I want you to know that all children need permanency.

Last year, I witnessed the adoption of a 19-year-old young man. When I first started working with him, I knew he’d given up hope. When you’re shuffled around and no one stands up to claim you, the effects are damaging. But his foster mother stuck by his side. Even when he was placed in another foster home, she always kept in touch with him. What was the result?

The young man began to believe in the adults around him. He began to believe, once more, in the notion of family. I was honored to witness his adoption finalization at Brooklyn Family Court and to see their celebratory embrace. Mother and son. I’ll never forget that.

At HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, we are focusing more and more on serving our older youth, who need positive, supportive adults in their lives. Currently, we are partnering with ALIA, a national non-profit transforming how child welfare is done in this country.

We are trying to change a foster care culture that criminalizes, penalizes and discards our youth. We will never know the trauma of being removed from home. Or what it’s like to relive that trauma with each new placement. But we can help our youth to heal. We can show up and be the upstanding adults they never thought existed.

If you are considering adoption, please don’t close yourself off to teens and young adults. If you’ve never considered fostering or adopting at all, there are still so many ways you can help.

Our children need you. Will you answer their call?


Norma Forde
Norma Forde
is the senior director of permanency at
HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, opening new doors of opportunity for over 6,800 children, youth and families annually.  

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