Viewpoint: Consider Adoption or Foster Care

By Michelle Burns
Special to the Palisades News

Many people in our community are unaware of the issue of children in the foster care system. About 10,615 children were removed from their parents’ homes in L.A. County in 2013-14, and more than 13,000 are waiting for adoptive families.

In California, one out of 50 children is living in foster care; which is more than 56,000 kids.

During 2012, every week more than 200 kids in L.A. County were removed from their homes  because of neglect or abuse. For my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I chose to bring awareness to this issue, and the emotional hardships that foster kids face going through the foster system without having a permanent home.

Michelle Burns

Michelle Burns

I wanted my school to not only be informed about the issue, but to also take action. I set up a pen-pal program at Harvard-Westlake between students there and foster kids at Village Family Services, a foster agency located in North Hollywood. The goal was to create an outlet for the foster kids to express their feelings, and to know there are other kids out there who care about them.

Village Family Services places foster kids with foster families and with adoptive families. They also provide services dealing with social care, behavioral health, education, training and research.

In addition, with money raised from a bake sale, I provided books for another foster agency, Westside Children’s Center, located in Culver City. Since these foster children were too young to join a pen-pal program, I chose instead to appeal to their imagination through books. I will provide enough books so that every child who enters foster care for the next five to 10 years through this agency will receive one.

The issue of children without a permanent home is especially meaningful to me. I was adopted when I was about a year old, and although I don’t remember the orphanage I stayed in or the foster family I was placed with, I’ve always felt a connection to foster children. Although I was lucky enough to find a loving family, many children do not have that stability in their lives.

If you’d like more information about foster care and/or would like to get involved, please visit thevillagefs.org and westsidechildren.org.

(Editor’s note: Michelle Burns, a junior at Harvard-Westlake, started with Girl Scout Troop 11935 at Canyon Charter Elementary, but since sixth grade she has been a Juliette, which means she is no longer associated with a particular troop. One of her goals with her Gold Award project is to bring awareness to foster care in L.A. She has already collected 100 books to give to the Westside Children’s Center. Now the daughter of Ken and Carol Burns, Michelle spent the first three months of her life in an orphanage, then six months with a foster family in China before she was adopted through Vista Del Mar Family. The Brentwood resident learned she was adopted when she was four.)

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