Every year, Americans eagerly anticipate the arrival of the holiday season. We look forward to seeing familiar faces, enjoying our favorite rituals and creating new memories. Now more than ever, we appreciate our families that provide us with love, support and stability all year long. As we give thanks this holiday season, so should we also remember those who are less fortunate and don’t have the care and safety of a stable home.
November was National Adoption Month, and this year, agencies focused on expanding adoption opportunities for kids in the foster care system. In Illinois, there are almost 20,000 children in the foster care system and almost 3,000 are waiting to be adopted. Though foster care is supposed to be temporary, the average wait time in Illinois is an astounding 4 1/2 years. That’s why my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee and I worked to pass legislation encouraging adoption, so foster care kids can grow up in stable, encouraging homes that can put them on a path to success. This bill provides states with incentives to increase the adoption of older children, many of whom emancipate from the system without a family to call their own. It also makes sure that family members can claim guardianship to care for their nieces, nephews and grandchildren if their parents pass away. Lastly, this legislation ensures states maintain their commitment to post-adoption services.
Boosting adoption rates not only gives foster children a sound home base, it also protects them as an at-risk population. Without the accountability and support that a family provides, children in the foster care system are more vulnerable to predators in the community, such as those engaged in human trafficking. According to the Cook County Commission, Chicago is considered one of the targeted locations for trafficking due to its “large airport, central geographic location, and elaborate transportation infrastructure.” To combat this real danger, I’ve helped advance legislation in Congress that strengthens data collection on sex trafficking in the foster care system, and another bill that strengthens penalties for people who “obtain, patronize, or solicit” prostituted child by recognizes them as guilty of human trafficking. If we work together, we can protect at-risk children from this terrible fate, expose the threat of human trafficking and make our communities safer.
First Lady Barbara Bush once said, “Family means putting your arms around each other and being there.” Every child deserves to grow up in a loving, permanent family that gives them the best chance to succeed as a happy, healthy and productive person. This time of year wouldn’t be the same without our family and friends, and we should be grateful for their presences in our lives every day. From my family to yours, I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.
U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, represents Illinois' 6th District, which includes much of DuPage County.