Every child is precious. Every child deserves a loving and enriching home environment. Every child deserves joy and the opportunity to grow up happy and healthy.
In some homes, however, childhood experiences are far from what they should be, and removal of children due to abuse has become a sad fact of life.
Yet, no matter how abusive or chaotic the circumstances, separation from home and family can be extremely traumatic for a child.
To help ease the distress of separation, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services looks for relatives to care for children rather than placing the child in a foster home or an emergency shelter.
Unfortunately, placement with relatives is not always an option.
Based on my experience as a judge and chair of the Supreme Court Children’s Commission, I can say without hesitation that for children in foster care, the term emergency aptly describes their reality.
During a recent trip to Corpus Christi, I was blessed with the chance to visit The Ark, an emergency shelter that provides placement and critical care services for children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.
When I arrived at the shelter, I met several toddlers who happily played in a clean and safe environment. A sweet 3-year-old girl immediately ran up to me and asked, “Can I have a hug?”
It warmed my heart to wrap my arms around her and give her a loving embrace. Another child ran up to me for a hug, followed by another and then another.
A few minutes and several hugs later, I was overwhelmed by the affection emanating from these dear children.
Despite enduring pain and loss that many of us could never comprehend, they were open-hearted and eager to experience the kindness of a hug, even from a stranger.
I remain inspired by their resilience and ability to connect with others during a time of crisis and vulnerability in their lives.
Naturally, I left The Ark wondering about the fate of each child I met.
Would they return home to their families or join the approximately 31,000 children currently living in our state foster care system?
Far too many children grow up in foster care in Texas without ever obtaining stability and permanence in their home lives. What if you and your community could change that?
In 2014, more than 6,500 Texas children were in foster care available for adoption.
Finding adoptive homes is a challenge for our state’s child welfare agency, especially for older foster youth.
Even young adults who have aged out of foster care long to be adopted or to connect with relatives — to find a forever family.
Every November, our nation celebrates Adoption Awareness Month to bring attention to the plight of children in foster care and to encourage families to open their hearts and homes to children who live with uncertainty about their futures.
To adopt a child from foster care is to chart a new course for that child.
This November, let us be mindful of the extraordinary opportunity we each have to change a child’s life for the better.
And let us greet that opportunity with open minds, loving hearts and a commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.
Whether it be through adoption or support of adoptive families, foster parents, relatives or emergency-care facilities, we can work together to achieve a brighter future for children in need.
The Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more information.
Justice Eva M. Guzman is on the Supreme Court of Texas.