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This Valentine’s Day, Consider Making Room in Your Heart for a Child in Need

by Lorin Hancock , Program Officer – Communications, Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services
A girl and a boy posing for the camera.Cuyahoga County currently has more than 2,900 children in our care—more than we’ve had in years. Most will be in our custody temporarily while their parents or guardians work to resolve issues; some need a forever family. Whether temporary or permanent, each of these 2,900 children need a safe, stable, and loving place to call home. Finding those homes requires normal, everyday people deciding to make room in their hearts for a child who needs help.

Children come into our custody for a variety of reasons, none of which are their fault. Some may have suffered physical abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Others may have parents who are hospitalized, incarcerated, or deceased. They come from all different backgrounds, can be any race or ethnicity, and span a range of ages. The one thing all these kids have in common is instability—their lives have been turned upside-down and they will need help recovering.

Becoming a foster or adoptive parent may seem like a job for the Mother Teresa’s of this world, but that’s neither true nor practical. We don’t expect our prospective foster and adoptive parents to be living saints or walking parenting guides. If you are caring, patient, and willing to learn, you might be exactly the person we’re looking for.

A girl posing for the camera.There are a lot of misconceptions about who can be a foster or adoptive parent. We’re looking for people from all backgrounds, races, sexual orientations, genders, and cultures—people as diverse as the children in our care. You don’t have to be wealthy; you don’t have to be married; you don’t have to be religious; and you don’t have to own your own home. What you do have to be is:

  • At least 21 years old.
  • Physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.
  • Financially stable enough to meet your own basic needs.
  • Single, or part of a couple who have had a stable relationship for at least one year.

If you do decide to foster or adopt a child we won’t just throw you in. We’ll make sure you’re well-prepared and able to provide a stable home. Foster and adoptive parents go through 36 hours of training, submit a formal application, and go through a home study before they are approved. Foster parents are then eligible for a first placement, and adoptive parents then go through the matching process.

A girl holding flowers.As for the kids themselves, check out our Child of the Month archive to see the kinds of children who are currently in foster care and need a forever family. The February Child of the Month is Avion, a bright and energetic teen with a confident smile and a sense of humor. He surprises people with his compassion and ability to be kind to other children as well as protective.

We know that becoming a foster or adoptive parent is hard work, and certainly not for everyone. But if you have a feeling you could be really good at this, learn more about the program and let us know you’re interested. If you open your heart to the idea, there’s a child out there whose life you could change forever.