Saturday is National Adoption Day, Guardian Ad Litem Asks You to Help Families Help Children
By Carol Jewell, Director of the Guardian ad Litem program // November 23, 2019
There are 34,343 children in out-of-home care statewide
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Saturday is National Adoption Day, and you’ll see coverage of joyous ceremonies in courthouses all over the country.
But the happiness of children finding their forever families doesn’t come easy. It may sound corny, but it really does take a village, a support network – whatever you want to call it – to bring abused, abandoned and neglected children into your home.
“This is not an isolationist lifestyle,” says Daniel Burns, who has two adopted and four foster children. “You have to have resources and people to turn to.”
Dan and Olivia Burns began taking children into their Tallahassee home three years ago. He’s a businessman, she’s a former ESE teacher, and they get a lot of support from their church. Dan often visits the Florida Legislature to speak up for adoptive and foster families.
Last month he addressed the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee on behalf of a bill to expand Florida’s early childhood courts. He’s urged lawmakers to invest more in the child welfare system.
He says not everyone can adopt or foster a child, much less six, but everyone can help to reduce the number of abused and neglected children without homes.
There are 34,343 children in out-of-home care statewide, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. In our judicial circuit, there are 1,649.
“Every child in foster care has experienced loss,” Dan says. “Their parents. They’ve usually lost their school, friends, pet. They are devastated, scared…It’s our job to triage the most critical needs.” These needs range from broken bones to the inability to “attach” with an adult.
Dan and Olivia are the stabilizing force in their children’s lives, the “connection with safe adults they can bond with.” Most of their children “haven’t had a safe daddy.”
“I don’t have a heart of gold,” Dan says. “I have a heart that’s filled with the grief and pain and loss that my children have experienced.”
But Dan also says his foster and adoptive children have brought “opportunities for grace and forgiveness to be displayed in my home.” His children know how to share and to empathize with their siblings. “They’re learning to love the vulnerable. I’m teaching my sons that strong men love and serve others. That hardship has value…”
He and Olivia say they couldn’t have done this without an extended family that provides meals, respite care, hand-me-downs and much more.
He also says they got immense help from their Guardian ad Litem, Leigh Merritt. “My children, when they see her, they go running to her.”
Not everyone can adopt or foster a child. But you can help abused and neglected children by volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem. Children with a volunteer advocate are twice as likely to be adopted as those without – and they will spend less time in foster care.
You also can donate to non-profits that support children in foster care with everything from school supplies to scholarships.
To learn more about how you can help in Brevard County, call (321) 690-6823. In Seminole, call (407) 665-5370.