Latinos have a long history of stepping in when close relatives are not able to raise their child. The AdoptUsKids report described this arrangement as an "informal open adoption." When agencies make the effort to understand the culture, they are able to help Latinos appreciate the legal option of becoming foster parents. As a result, agencies have found more Latinos are now seeking to make families in formal ways, through adoption. In addition, newcomers who have established themselves in the Unites States try to abide by the system as they understand the rules of the new culture, says Victoria Cerda, Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Resource Association (CARAS).
Advocates for children hope more Latinos consider becoming foster parents or adopting, since recent statistics show an alarming trend. The number of Latino children entering foster care is larger than the number of qualified families who share their language and cultural identity. A factsheet produced by the Casey Latino Leadership Group shows the number of Latino children in the system more than doubled in the past two decades and is likely to continue rising.
The 2010 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System report found that over 84,000 in the foster care system were Latino children – yet only 11,000 were adopted. This has led to ongoing campaigns to recruit more Latino families who are in the position to answer this call from children waiting to be taken in.
Deportation laws also contribute to the growth of Latino children in the foster care system. An investigation of ColorLines – News For Action in November 2011 reported that approximately 5,000 U.S citizen children are in foster care following the detention or deportation of their parents.
"It is estimated that 15,000 other children will be at risk of permanent separation from their families in the next four to five years," says Cerda.
Child advocates say a familiar language and culture can greatly reduce childhood trauma experienced when children are removed from their birth homes. "Latinos value the importance of 'taking care of our own' and strongly believe they are taking care of their community by adopting," says Quintanilla. "Latinos are a valuable resource." There are countless benefits when an adopted foster child does not lose his or her cultural identity and is "proud to be Latino," says Kendra Morris-Jacobson, Director of Oregon Programs for Northwest Resource Associates.
Image: Latina woman and child, via Shutterstock.