Friday, December 22, 2006

Why adopt overseas, when there are needy children here?

American kids need families, too
Stars don't need to go overseas to adopt
Dye, Steven. Lexington Herald-Leader, Nov. 6, 2006, pg. A11.

I have been following the media coverage of the recent phenomenon of celebrities adopting children from foreign countries: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Meg Ryan and now Madonna, among others.

Having worked within foster-care and mental-health systems for many years, I have mixed feelings about this.

While it is certainly admirable and even noble of wealthy and globally mobile celebrities to have the means and the desire to give a home to disadvantaged children from Third World countries, many of us in the United States are painfully aware that there are literally thousands of children right here in our back yards who desperately need foster and adoptive families.

I don't know of a single instance of a celebrity trekking to Appalachia, the Deep South, Native American reservations or inner cities in the Northeast looking for a disadvantaged child to give a permanent home.

There seems to be a certain cachet among the elite that adopting a child from exotic parts of the world is cooler than giving a permanent home to a child from Tomahawk, Ky., or Crum, W.Va., or for that matter, New York City.

Don't get me wrong. Having some knowledge of the circumstances that children in Third World countries are living in and the need for homes for those kids in the far corners of the globe, I do applaud Madonna for using her time in this manner rather than shopping for yet another mansion, luxury car or husband.

Children who are lucky enough to be adopted by a wealthy celebrity will have the opportunity to live a lifestyle few of us regular folks can even imagine.

But such news can be very painful for people who work closely with many kids right here in Kentucky who are wonderful and have great potential but who do not have parents or who will never be reunited with birth families.

What these kids need more than anything else is a permanent home. And there are not enough adoptive parents to go around. Or maybe just not enough celebrities. Wonder what Ashley Judd and Johnny Depp are doing these days?

Perhaps the people who idolize celebrities and look at them as role models could imitate them by looking into becoming foster or adoptive parents here in the United States.

There are thousands of children here who need good parents and a stable and loving family. If you are interested, contact the local social services office or one of the many private foster care and adoptive agencies.You could become a star.

-STEVEN L. DYE is director of a therapeutic foster care agency in Lexington


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