November 28, 2011
Thank you for that kind introduction. I am delighted to be here.
I want to thank everyone for your contribution today, but more importantly for your tireless work as advocates for children, youth, and families in your communities throughout the year.
As the Secretary of Health and Human Services, I lead the Department charged with protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially the most vulnerable.
We provide health care for tens of millions of children. We support early care and education programs that provide a safe place while parents work and ensure a supportive place to learn and grow.
But none of the services that we provide can be a substitute for the love, care, and support that come from a family. The most important people in any child’s life should be their parents or parent.
That singular love and commitment is something every child should have.
And yet, more than 400,000 kids live in foster care, and more than a quarter of them are legally free to be adopted—they just need a family.
On average, these youth have been in foster care for more than three years waiting for a permanent outcome. Still more children abroad live without families.
In the face of considerable barriers, all of you and your partners continue to work incredibly hard at state and local agencies, community organizations, advocacy groups, and faith communities to help these children and youth find the loving home they deserve.
And this Administration is committed to helping you fulfill your mission. That’s why, through the Affordable Care Act, we have temporarily increased the value of the Adoption Tax Credit and made it refundable.
That’s why the president signed the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act this fall.
The law includes new provisions to spur state innovation in services for abused and neglected children and helps reduce the amount of time young children are without permanent families.
And it’s why we’ve also launched the Initiative to Reduce Long-term Foster Care, which takes a holistic approach to reducing the time children are in foster care.
I know you have had a chance to discuss these and many other federal efforts in greater detail with our colleagues like Bryan Samuels -- our terrific commissioner at the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF).
But I want to underline the common thread that runs through all of these efforts: It is the idea that a home needs to be more than just a roof and four walls.
It’s a place where a child is nurtured and supported so that they can grow to become a contributing adult. It’s a foundation for healing and a start down the path that ultimately leads to opportunity and reaching their dreams.
Anyone who has raised a child will admit that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. But that’s not what we need. We just need loving, dedicated parents who know they’re not alone.
One of the most powerful experiences I have had in my time as Secretary has been presiding over a number of adoption ceremonies. As so many of you here today know, it is a special honor and joy to be there with a family at such a powerful, pivotal moment in their lives.
Moments like these are a reminder that every child, no matter their age, deserves and needs a family. And that there is also a family out there that deserves and needs that child.
We need to do everything in our power to make that connection.
Government has an important role to play, and this Administration will continue to support your work at the state and local level. But at the end of the day, we know we cannot solve these problems alone. Success depends on the compassion of individual families and the support of strong communities.
So I want thank all of you for your work to nurture those communities and to recruit, retain, and support those generous families. And I want to give special thanks to those of you who have gone even further, to make this work a part of your own lives -- whether it’s mentoring a foster child or supporting the youth ministry at your church.
All of you are here today because you know how great the need is for adoption and how powerful its potential impact can be on a young person’s life.
Thanks to your leadership we have already accomplished a lot, but we all know there is a lot of work left to do.
I hope that we can use this meeting not only to learn from one another, but also to recommit ourselves to the goal of giving every young person a permanent and loving home.
Last week, people traveled all over the country for Thanksgiving to be with their families. This morning I am sure some of us may still be feeling a little weary from it all, but also thankful -- thankful for our families, their love and support, and the opportunity to share it with one another.
Every young person deserves that same opportunity, and we are committed to working together with you to make sure they get it.