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Each November is set aside as National Adoption Awareness Month, a time where attention is drawn to the myths and truths of adopting from the foster care system.

In 2016, 438 children were adopted from the foster care system in South Carolina. In total, 57,200 children were adopted from the foster system across the United States. That may seem like a large number, but the truth is that roughly 118,000 children were still left waiting for a forever family — a number that has increased over the past few years.

Katie Cruices Smith has adopted three children and authored the book “Why Did You Choose Me?” — a book aimed at helping children understand their adoptions. Smith said it is vital for all people to recognize the importance of children waiting to be adopted and that the local churches should be answering the call to help.

“With over 130 million orphans in the world, the church is not doing all it can to help,” she said.

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In her book, Smith outlines that while neither parent nor child is perfect, they do make a perfect family. She hopes to reassure children that they are loved and special, no matter what.

Amanda Samuels has been an adoption specialist with South Carolina DSS for the past 10 years. She estimates that she has helped to finalize close to 120 adoptions in that time.

According to Samuels, the No. 1 need in South Carolina is families willing to take in older children and sibling groups. She said the need is extreme.

But as the ad says, you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent. If the idea is daunting, Samuels attests that you don’t have to be Donna Reed to adopt.

“We need families willing to stick with these kids for the long haul no matter how hard it gets. Yes, the system is broken and frustrating to deal with. Yes, the kids may have trauma that comes out in the worst ways, but we need families who are willing to fight for these kids and never give up. They are worth it,” she emphasized.

There are several myths that pop up the minute someone mentions foster care adoptions. Myths like adopting costs thousands of dollars. Or that older children are too damaged to be adopted. Or that the process is nothing but mountains of paperwork.

According to Samuels, adopting through foster care is almost free. The state of South Carolina will reimburse families $1,500 in legal fees and can provide both Medicaid and adoption subsidies for children. She also said she has completed several adoptions for nearly adult kids needing families, one being 19.

As for the paperwork, Samuels added, “This myth is not a myth. It’s the truth. This is a human life, and we have to fight for them.”

The need for families to take these children in is staggering. But Smith had a simple solution — and one that has been echoed for many years across the country.

“If just a couple of families in every church across America adopted, we could wipe out the orphan crisis completely,” Smith said.

If you don’t feel led to adopt, both Smith and Samuels said there are many ways to help. Providing love, meals and a helping hand is the most basic way to help a foster family or a new adoptive family. You can also help a family gather clothing, bedroom needs, toiletries and more for a new family member. And both said that family and friends could pray for the family and their new family member.

Samuels noted that watching a child grow and thrive in a loving home with their forever family is the most rewarding part of her job. I’m sure the family would agree.

For more information on National Adoption Month, visit www.childwelfare. gov.

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