The number is staggering. There are 104,000 children hoping to be adopted right now - nationwide. In Iowa alone, there are 765 who are eligible right now.
November is National Adoption Month, something that’s being celebrated locally, Thursday night. A candlelight vigil will be held at Church of Christ, 1525 McPherson Ave. in Council Bluffs, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. It will honor foster and adoptive families and raise awareness of the need for more.
"The difference that we make as parents, whether we birthed them or adopted them is that we're turning out the next generation of the people we want in society. And I figured this is one of the most impactful ways I can do it,” said Hector Villarreal of Council Bluffs. He adopted three young children, all siblings, while living in Los Angeles in 2001.
Villarreal came back to Council Bluffs shortly afterward to raise them near the majority of his family. "I do come from a large family, being a Latino. There were seven of us. I've always wanted a large family,” he explained. Adopting his children was the start of that, and so much more.
“These children are incredibly noble,” Villarreal said of his now teenagers Miguel, Lucy and Carlos. “They are selfless individuals. They are tolerant, and they are compassionate for others." He said he can't imagine who they'd be without him, nor who he'd be without them.
“We have over 26,000 children in the united states that age out of foster care without a family," said Jill Stone, a Post-Adoption Specialist with Iowa KidsNet. She said fear holds many people back from becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent.
"We're not looking for perfect parents. Children don't need perfect. They need parents,” she emphasized. “And there are subsidies that go along with adoption. There's a subsidy that goes along with foster care, with maintenance. It doesn't cover all the costs of raising a child, but it does help."
Villarreal, a single father, has also fostered other children. And he’s now in the process of finalizing the adoption of three more children. But he said the support he’s received along the way is what’s made it all possible. "Nothing we do as parents we are doing in a vacuum. We are doing it with the support of the community, the schools, and physicians-“
He’s able to work out of his home, which helps. And in his role with Ask Resources, he helps refer other foster and adoptive parents to organizations and agencies which will help them to be successful. It’s more than a career for him, it’s a passion.
"Children do continue to age out without the support of a family. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be an adult, and not have a root. Not have something to go back to, someone to go to. So if i can do that for somebody, than that's my job."
While parenting comes with its challenges, he said the rewards have been far greater. “Hearing ‘I love you’, knowing that I'm needed, knowing that I've made a difference."
A number of ceremonies will be taking place this month in Nebraska as well, in which 130 children will be officially adopted.
For more information on becoming a foster or adoptive parent, click on the link below.