Minnesota has seen a rise in the adoption of teens due in large part to a refocused effort to find parents for an age group that often gets overlooked during the adoption process.

Adopting Teens

Teens, siblings and foster children often have a more difficult time getting adopted than infants, but the state is continuing its effort to find a home for each and every child.

“Any waiting child is too many,” said Erin Sullivan Sutton, who directs the state’s foster care and adoption center for the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Although Minnesota had fewer adoptions this year than in 2011, the 376 adoptions have helped to reduce the number of children waiting for adoption from 1,200 to 428 over the past decade.

The state made two significant changes to aid in the adoption process.  First, it began by reinforcing its diversion programs, which help keep families from putting children up for adoption.  Also, there has been added focus on making the adoption process quicker and more aggressive.  Over the past decade, these changes have reduced the time it takes to move children from state guardianship into an adoptive family from 24 months to 16 months.

The changes have helped to find homes for more children, especially teens.  Over the past two years the state has cut the number of children who reach 18 without adoptive parents in half.

Pre-Adoption Classes

Another way government officials are helping find homes for teens is by seeking out adults who have made an impact on their life or influential relatives to see if they’d be willing to adopt the child.  Also, pre-adoption classes are placing an extra emphasis on the needs of teens and how they benefit from adoption.

“What kids will tell you is their sense of belonging and security is so much greater having been adopted,” said Sullivan Sutton. “It’s not always easy, but knowing somebody is going to stick with them through it all is extremely powerful.”

Tia Vasquez, who lives in Inver Grove Heights, said she and her husband had considered adopting a child to fulfill their dream of having one birth child and one adoptive child.  Before they could really consider their options, Vasquez’s husband died from complications of a rare brain disorder.

A few years later, Vasquez once again considered adopting a child, but it was her daughter who pushed Vasquez to consider adopting a teen.

“You know, Momma,” said her daughter Mia, “I would like to have an older sister.”

Through her research, Vasquez came across the story of 15-year-old Brianna, who had been abused by her birth parents and then again by adoptive parents.  Vasquez said she knew right away she wanted to make Brianna part of their family.

The family recently celebrated their first Christmas together, and although they have experienced their ups and downs along the way, Brianna said she is thankful to finally have a supportive family.

“I thought I would never get adopted,” she said. “I’ve been told at my age that it’s rare.”

Related source:  Star-Tribune