We aim to give hope to Alaskan youth who are without homes

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As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of family. This year I am thinking so much about kids. Kids need safety, stability, and a home. I think of the kids I have had the honor and privilege to know — from my siblings, to my youth group in South Africa, my own children (growing so fast), and so many others. With them I have shared joy and tragedy. Some were set up for success from the start, and others had challenges to overcome before they could even crawl. There are many children who are in need of support and families who need connection. We at Catholic Social Services (CSS) are working to support them.

One way to support families and children is through adoption, and November is National Adoption Month — a great time to highlight an incredible program at CSS: Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. It runs through a grant from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and allows our staff to devote concentrated attention to children in the foster care system who are legally free to be adopted.

Nationally, adoptions made using Wendy’s Wonderful Kids have focused on older children who are languishing in the foster care system — 90 percent are older than eight years old, 52 percent have been in the foster care system more than four years, and 33 percent have had six or more placements previously. At CSS, since the grant began in 2011, we’ve matched 82 percent of the kids who have been referred to us with forever-loving families.

Challenges in Alaska stemming from poverty, historical trauma, addiction, and so many other factors impact our families and our children. Children aging in the foster care system deserve a family to count on and a home to live in, but the answer is often complicated. We need to support parents and families in difficult times, and we need to offer choices, like adoption, to place children in forever-loving families.

There are thousands of other vulnerable Alaskan children, who are not touching foster care, but who are struggling in poverty. At CSS we work to support them too. Whether they come with their parents to St. Francis House Food Pantry, receive support from Family Disability Services, stay at Clare House with their moms, find housing with their families through Homeless Family Services or move with their family from across the world to our refugee community here, we want to help give hope to these children.

By helping them now, when they’re young, by letting them know they have people who care about them and support them, we help to prevent the chance of homelessness and hopelessness later in their lives. We know that childhood trauma is linked to homelessness and addiction as well as many other poor health outcomes. By helping children and their families stabilize, we help make sure our community is stronger tomorrow.

This November, and every November, we have an opportunity to highlight adoption, and to celebrate children and families. We celebrate all children in our state and around the world. Together we can create a safe and beautiful world for our children and our grandchildren.

This Thanksgiving, we at CSS extend our thanks to each of you and to our community, and we wish you the very best of the season.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more on CSS, call 222-7300 or visit cssalaska.org.


'We aim to give hope to Alaskan youth who are without homes'
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