Prince James Story |
For the last fourteen years, the Children’s Services Division of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services and the Riverside Superior Court have co-hosted a national adoption event to raise the level of adoption awareness in the Inland Empire.
Former President Ronald Regan created National Adoption Week in 1984 to bring awareness to adoption agencies and increase the number of adoptions across America. In 1995, former President Bill Clinton started National Adoption month.
Currently, there are over 600,000 kids in the foster care system in the United States. In California, that number is around 60,000, according to the Children’s Law Center of California.
Eighty two children were adopted at this year’s event held November 5, the second-highest number of adoptions in recent years. Six volunteer judges oversaw the adoptions at the courthouses in Riverside and Indio, and three other judges volunteered at the Larson Justice Center in Indio to facilitate adoptions at that location.
“This is what people need to see. This is unity. Today, let’s all celebrate something that is really good. And all the different homes that we’ve created,” said Riverside County Board of Supervisors member Jeff Hewitt. “Each year, hopefully, we can take care of more and more, whether they’re babies all the way up to 18-year-olds.”
City of Riverside Mayor Patricia Dawson attended the event and gave an emotional speech at the adoption ceremony, praising the parents and kids.
“I’ve raised three kids here [Riverside]. And as a former school board member, I know how vital strong families are to help children thrive and have a successful future. And the commitments made today will help build and support families in our community for years to come,” Mayor Dawson said.
“I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing courtroom ceremonies as your families are legally sealed forever. I have to say it ruined my makeup because it’s very difficult not to get emotional.”
National Adoption Day is celebrated annually on Nov.19, and events are held in 400 cities across the country where children are legally connected to their “forever family.” Since 2000, 75,000 kids have been placed on National Adoption Day.
The Heart Gallery is one way to bring awareness and distribute photos of children in foster homes across the country. It was created by a group of volunteers in New Mexico in 2001 to bring awareness to children in foster care systems.
Ida Roath, an adoption supervisor at the Riverside County Department of Social Services, is in charge of the county’s program. Roath has been a part of adoption services in Riverside for around 20 years.
“What we do is we get professional photographers to donate their time. And they come in, take pictures of the kids and try to basically capture their personality,” she said. “Then we put together collages, which you’ll see on our Heart Gallery table, just for people to come and look. It’s a traveling portrait exhibit. So we can take it across the county and raise awareness that we need more adoptive homes.”
The department holds other events throughout the year, like the “matching picnics,” where fully approved adoptive parents and children in foster care meet in the park. It also plans activities where potential parents and kids interact.
Roath said the number of adoptions in Riverside County steadily increased over the last 20 years until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The highest number of adoptions in one year was around 700.
Foster Care Homes
Events like National Adoption Day and programs like the Heart Gallery are great ways to spread the word and distribute information on the thousands of kids of all ages in the foster care system across the country who are looking for their forever homes.
“This is just the start. I know it took a long time to get here. But really, it’s the Forever Family you’re building, and the child’s lives are changing forever,” said Riverside City Councilmember Ronaldo Fierro.
“Children have tremendous capacity, and they have tremendous resiliency, but it’s cut short if they’re not loved, if they’re not encouraged, if they’re not told that they can make a difference, that there is no ceiling, that they can accomplish anything, and that they are no different than any other person on this planet.”