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Remarks on National Adoption Month

Alex M. Azar II
National Adoption Month
November 12, 2019
Washington, D.C.

Increasing permanency for children across our country is a priority at the highest levels of the Trump Administration, and it's an honor to serve under a President and Vice President who take that so seriously.

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Lynn [Johnson], for that introduction, and thank you for your leadership at ACF and for your dedication to promoting adoption in particular.

I want to thank Elizabeth Darling of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families; Jerry Milner of the Children's Bureau; and everyone who helped put today's event together.

I also want to recognize the commitment of my friend, Vice President Pence, who will be joining us later today.

Increasing permanency for children across our country is a priority at the highest levels of the Trump Administration, and it's an honor to serve under a President and Vice President who take that so seriously.

To begin, I want to offer a special thank you to the many adoptive parents who are in this room today.

Yesterday, we honored America's veterans as heroes, but I want you to know that we view you also, America's adoptive parents, as heroes. Your generosity, compassion, and sacrifice have changed lives.

Children's futures are brighter because of you, and the future of our country is brighter because of you.

I want to offer a special round of applause for the generosity you've shown.

America really ought to celebrate your work year-round, but during National Adoption Month, we bring special attention to the needs of adoptive children and the families who welcome them.

I want to emphasize briefly just how transformative this generosity can be for individuals, families, and communities.

In all of our human services work at HHS, our overarching goal is to promote independence, personal responsibility, and self-sufficiency—to help Americans lead flourishing, fulfilling, independent lives. That means using our programs for low-income Americans to support work, marriage, and family life.

The same principles apply to why we believe adoption is so important. Adoption gives children not just stability and love in the short term, but also a safe and stable platform for kids to grow into stable, responsible, and self-sufficient adults.

While not all Americans are ready or able to adopt, everyone can honor and support those who do.

This is especially important when approximately 20,000 youth exit or "age out" of foster care each year. The outcomes for these kids are often incredibly discouraging: Only 58 percent of them will graduate from high school, and only half of them will have found employment at age 24. More than a quarter of them will experience homelessness.

These kids often aren't able to achieve the independence they need to thrive—but finding them a loving family can change all that.

You've been able to hear today what an amazing difference adoption can make for teenagers, when you heard from Christian and Isaiah.

In addition to congratulating Christian, Isaiah, and the other adopted teenagers we have here today, I also want to recognize the resilience of every kid who remains in the foster system—we are working hard to get you the support you need to flourish.

Thankfully, we are making progress. As many of you know, data collected by the Children's Bureau shows that the number of American kids in foster care dropped in 2018 for the first time in several years, while the number of adoptions from the public child welfare system has been trending steadily upward.

We have a long way to go, but we are headed in the right direction.

To sustain this momentum, we have launched a Call to Action for states and other stakeholders, which aims to develop and sustain key partnerships across private, public, and faith-based groups, with the goal of reducing the number of children in foster care and increasing adoption.

We're eager to work with states and other entities to identify the barriers to adoption and determine what we can do to break them down.

There are so many inspirational success stories that we can point to, and that's one reason why I'm here today. We're here today to celebrate and honor all Americans who work to provide permanency for kids in our foster care system.

Each year, the Children's Bureau recognizes particularly exceptional contributions with the Adoption Excellence Awards, which honor individuals, families, organizations, and state, tribal, and local governments. The awards fall into five categories.

First, we'll recognize families who have provided exceptional care for children or have influenced development of better programs and services for children adopted from foster care.

Second, we'll recognize individuals or professionals who've made special contributions to promote the adoption of children from foster care.

Third, we'll recognize businesses and organizations who've helped promote adoption through activities such as partnerships, sponsorships, donations, charitable support, or volunteerism.

Fourth, we'll recognize unique media or social media efforts that have increased the community's understanding of the need for permanency for children in foster care.

Fifth, we'll recognize government entities for reforms that have resulted in fewer children coming into care or have expedited the movement of children from foster care to permanency.

I want to highlight one particular award winner as an example of the kind of system-wide impacts that truly dedicated individuals can deliver.

In the organizational award category, we're recognizing the Center for Adoption Support and Education, for their development of the National Training Initiative on Adoption-Competent Mental Health Services. The initiative provides professionals with the skills needed to meet the needs of youth and their adoptive and guardianship families.

This curriculum, supported by a grant from the Children's Bureau, has already had a tremendous impact on the child welfare and mental health workforce. We're proud to be helping equip these dedicated professionals with what they need to help more American youth.

I want to congratulate each of today's award winners, and I want to thank all adoptive families in attendance here and across America.

Your commitment to our country's children and families hasn't gone unnoticed. You've helped make a real difference. I want to encourage you to keep up the good work.

With this administration's commitment to your cause, I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.

Together, we're giving kids more than just a permanent home—we'll give them permanent hope.

So thank you, everyone, for working to provide that hope, and thank you again for joining us here today.

Content created by Speechwriting and Editorial Division 
Content last reviewed on November 12, 2019