Governor Hutchinson’s weekly address counts every day for children waiting to be adopted
Governor Hutchinson’s weekly radio address can be found in MP3 format and downloaded HERE.
SMALL STONE – Today I want to talk about Every Day Counts, the three-month initiative by the Department of Child and Family Services and Project Zero that focuses on finding adoptive families for children in the Arkansas care system.
As with everything else in life, COVID-19 has affected some of the good work we have done in the adoption system. The courts have closed and the number of children waiting to be adopted has increased in the past 18 months because we couldn’t get them into permanent homes anytime soon. The Department of Human Services conducted much of its business virtually.
To make up for lost time, the Child and Family Services Department and Project Zero created the Every Day Counts campaign to highlight the urgency of finding homes for these children. These 349 children waiting for adoption are in foster families through no fault of their own. Every day a child spends in a foster family is one day too many.
Of the 349 children, the DHS has identified 162 children who are close to adoption and hope to take them into their eternal families during the ninety-day campaign.
One of the campaign’s many heroes is Christie Erwin, who founded the non-profit Project Zero ten years ago with the aim of reducing the number of adopted children to zero. Christie and her husband have cared for more than fifty children and adopted two.
Christie dreams that Arkansas could be the first state without a single child waiting for adoption. She dreams of the day that instead of a waiting list with the names of the children, families will wait for adoption without children being available.
On Wednesday, Christie helped host a Sweet 16 birthday party for Dwynea, who is in the care system. A news team from KARK television covered the party. A photo of Dwynea and a short video about her are among the dozen of stories at Project Zero’s Arkansas Heart Gallery.
The Heart Gallery is one of Project Zero’s primary tools for finding adoptive families. Christie tells the story of a young man whose story didn’t get a lot of attention at the Heart Gallery. But one year a couple who had seen his story went to an event for foster children and parents-to-be with the intention of getting to know him. They recognized him, spent the evening with him, and eventually adopted him.
Christie said it was a very special moment to see him join a family after six years in a government institution and put his life together and graduate from high school.
The Every Day Counts campaign will feature short films at the Arkansas Heart Gallery about each of the children waiting to be adopted so families can hear their stories in their own voices.
62 children were moved to their eternal families in July and August, and we hope to make further progress over the next three months.
In Project Zero math, one plus one equals zero. Place a child with a family enough times and eventually the number of children on the waiting list will be zero. I often refer to my goal of improving the quality of life for all Arcansan. That’s a long-term goal. Adoption is a way to improve the quality of life for an Arkansan – a child – now.
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