There are more than 400,000 foster children in state custody right now. Every year, more than 20,000 age out without being reunited with their biological family or finding a new one through adoption.
Every day, another child is taken into foster care because of abuse or neglect or family difficulties. Every day, another child in the system is ready for a family.
We need more foster parents, more foster moms. If you've ever considered becoming a foster or adoptive mother, I encourage you to take the first steps now. Call the state or contact a nonprofit private foster care provider.
As a little extra encouragement, here's a letter from a teenage girl to her foster mother. She's 16 years old and a junior in high school, but she's already beginning to put her foster care experience in perspective and recognizing the things that really matter.
This post is in memory of my beloved adoptive mother, Barbara, who passed away a couple of years ago. Like the author of the letter below, if I could say one thing to her it would be - "You're my mom, my hero and my best friend."
I came to you as a foster child on Nov. 22, 2013. At first, living with you seemed easy, but then the anger and problems I had held onto throughout my life came out.
There were times when we both thought things were just not going to work out. But, God knew better. We had times when we snapped at each other and times where we both thought, "I can't do this." But God knew more.
He had a plan for our relationship and our growth as a family. Looking back now, it seems to me He wanted a broken girl like me with countless troubles to find a mother like you who would care for her, love her and make her a part of a healthy family. That's exactly what happened.
If you had given up on me, there is no telling where I would be now. I imagine I would still be in foster care, fighting everyone and refusing to accept help. Sometimes, when I think of my past and where I'm heading now, it still feels like a dream.
Having you in my life and the things you have taught me has allowed me to build a better relationship with the Lord. And through that, you and I have built a better relationship with each other.
You took me in, fed me, gave me a safe home and spent countless hours talking to me. But most importantly, you called me your own. By adopting me, you gave me a place to call home forever, your last name and a family I love and who loves me. You gave me a chance at a different life full of hope and possibilities.
Thank you for never giving up on me, no matter how hard it got. No matter how bad I treated you, you stood by my side and became my mother. Please know that for all those moments when I don't act like I love you because we're arguing over something, I still love you.
Knowing I have a mother who is there for me and will take care of me until I can take care of myself is the greatest gift I could imagine. You're my mom, my hero and my best friend.
Thank you for being there when no one else was. Thank you for believing in me and helping me accomplish my goals. Thank you for accepting me as your child. I love you.
Mary Lee earned a bachelor's degree in social work with a minor in leadership from Austin Peay State University and went on to graduate from the University of Memphis School of Law. She is assistant director of strategic partnerships for Youth Villages and is helping expand YVLifeSet, a program of Youth Villages that helps young people who age out of foster care achieve their amazing potential. In 2015, she was honored by The White House as a Champion of Change for her work on behalf of youth who have experienced foster care and was also named one of Glamour Magazine's 50 Hometown Heroes. This year, she will receive an Activist Award from the North American Council on Adoptable Children. For more information, visit www.YVLifeSet.org.