The state Department of Health and Human Services is working with nonprofit organizations to expand adoption services for older children.
The partnership with the Dave Thomas Foundation and Children's Home Society of North Carolina is supporting more case workers, who will help children find the right family. Rebecca Starnes of the Children's Home Society says that model of care has become more popular in recent years.
“Historically, there's been more of an emphasis on there being a family that's interested in adopting a child, and then there has been a lot of effort put into identifying the right child for that family,” Starnes said. “This flips that on its head and takes that child-first approach. What's unique about their personality that would really help us find the family that's best for them?”
The Children's Home Society says older children are adopted at lower rates. More of them aged out of foster care last year than in any of the previous 15 years.
The partnership with the Children's Home Society of North Carolina and the Dave Thomas Foundation hopes to provide more case workers for children from ages 9 to 21. Pending adoptions are more likely to be terminated as children get older in foster care.
Starnes said the organization uses a child-focused approach to help the adoption process.
“Our specialists have a much smaller caseload,” she said. “They work collaboratively with social workers from the counties, they really get to know this child, then they recruit and find the family that's right for that particular child.”
Potential parents are often deterred by myths of adopting older children. Some of the stereotypes and mistaken beliefs are that older kids don't need a family as much as younger child, which really isn't true, Starnes said.
North Carolina recently raised the age at which children age out of foster care from 18 to 21.