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Photo-listing and viral videos: Semi-effective (but I wish we didn't need them)

Last year, a video filmed by a Children's services department in Oklahoma went viral. In the video, a blond, blue eyed nine year old boy pleads desperately for a family. Plaintively staring into the camera, he reiterates that his only wish in the whole world would be a family of his very own.

I was tagged in clips of this video and saw it recirculated all over social media. CNN stated in an article that ten thousand families from all over the country inquired about adopting this little boy. Sounds great right? Little boy gets his wish, problem solved. Kid gets family, very simple process right? All it took was a viral video and some Facebook comments, right?!?!

Here's the thing: I'm very familiar with those types of viral videos. My own son was the subject of one of those "family needed" trailers. And that boy from the Oklahoma video? He's the rule, not the exception. He was bounced out of countless homes before landing in a group home, and the adoptive family of his younger brother refused to adopt him and raise him alongside his sibling (but nobody talks about that in the heartwarming video). There are hundreds of those kids in every county in America, hurting little boys and girls carrying a lot of trauma, and sometimes expressing it in ways that can be tough for those around them to get a handle on. And the reality is that there are very few families willing to make these children part of their family for the long haul, especially when behaviors start to crop up and shit really hits the fan.

I can't help but wonder how many of the ten thousand starry-eyed people who called to inquire about this boy are really ready to be in it for the long haul with him. I can't help but wonder if the special family chosen, that perfect fit, will really stick with him all the way to adoption and beyond. If their commitment is based on a fluttery feeling of savior-ism caused by a viral video, it will quickly evaporate in the heat of the trauma storm that comes along with welcoming a new family member who has a difficult past and gaping emotional wounds.

In the last few months, I have heard of four local families who have sent the child placed with them for adoption, or the child they'd already adopted, out of their home. And that's just the four cases that our small foster care and adoption community knew about. That's more than once a month. Calls come in for kids like Jordan, little boys on the older side who have had multiple other homes give up on them, who have experienced complex trauma, multiple times a week, and there's almost never any home willing to take a chance on them. Often the homes that would be otherwise willing are already busy managing the high needs children they've already said yes to.

Exhibit A: Over the summer a call came in for a five year old boy with autism named Brandon. I called and texted every family I could think of in desperation as my own five year old autistic baby played beside me. The homes of our experienced foster and adoptive family friends were already at capacity, and out of all the childless homes my agency and I called, not a one would consider taking him. Not a single one. His county sent him to a group home.

A kindergartener. Living in an institution due to lack of homes.

Ten thousand homes inquired about that little boy in Oklahoma from the viral video, but I wonder if all nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine homes who AREN'T chosen will stay licensed or get licensed to adopt, and go on to help another little boy who also needs them? Will they still have that fire, that burning desire to give a child the family that they need? Or does that drive only exist for kids who have a video, who are "trending"?

I also hear, way too often, from people who are licensed and wanting to adopt a waiting child, the following excuses as to why they have not yet been matched:

It's too hard, the process is so confusing.

We never hear back about the ones we want.

The kids who are waiting always have something wrong with them.

That website does't even work.

I'm sorry, is this process inconveniencing you? Because I thought we were all in this to help children. This is child welfare, not the customer services department at Ikea. Those who inquire about only the children with the brightest photos and sappiest videos, the littlest children with the most palatable of needs, those people are correct that they might not find a successful match with a waiting child. Those who are not proactive and who expect the child welfare system to treat them like a valued customer and get them the product that THEY want, on THEIR timeline, will probably not be good candidates for waiting child adoption.

Because those people are looking to fill their own needs, their own void. They are looking to get a child for their family, instead of looking to give their family to a child.

The truth is, kids shouldn't need viral videos. They shouldn't need to beg on camera for that which is a human right. The system shouldn't need to rely on trending topics and social media shares to get families passionate and motivated about giving a child a home.

A family for every child. Every child. That goal shouldn't be as far out of reach as it is.

I'm happy for that little boy from Oklahoma, and I really hope that he found an amazing family who will commit to weathering any storm necessary with him. He deserves that. But the thing is, they ALL do.

If you like videos, there's lots more videos you can watch on And to those nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine homes who aren't chosen for that one little boy, I sure hope you keep on looking. There are lots of other little ones who would like to be chosen, too. And they don't have ten thousand families, or even ten families, or even one family, to step up for them.

Two of the many sweet boys the same age as the one from Oklahoma, who are waiting in Ohio:

Beautiful Tre (Julian's pretend twin!):

They are one of 100 + boys ages 8 and older JUST LIKE THE ONE FROM THE VIRAL VIDEO who are waiting for adoptive homes in Ohio. There are hundreds more across the United States. And that's not even touching on the countless little boys sitting in our state in group homes due to a severe lack of foster or adoptive homes willing to take older boys with challenges, who may not be on photo-listing websites.

Don't wait for a viral video that tears at your heartstrings. Don't wait for it to be trendy. If you have a family to offer these kids, get started. They've waited long enough.

Speaking of waiting, this sporty all-American guy is Caiden. He stayed with us for respite last spring, and was disrupted from his pre-adoptive home shortly after. It was just weeks before what should have been his adoption day.

Caiden is 14 and he loves being active, K-pop, emailing his sisters, pretending to be engrossed in fantasy chapter books while actually eavesdropping on your conversation, sleeping anywhere except in his actual bed, and long car ride conversations about life.

He would do amazing with a parent or parents who can roll with the punches and don't take themselves too seriously. He would do well with siblings who are a little bit nerdy like him and who like to play together. A family that closely supervises ALL the kids and has experience with more intense trauma behaviors (or a lot of willingness to learn) would be best for Caiden. Basically, he needs someone willing to fight for him.

Caiden is living in a group home right now because so many adults who promised to love him forever have given up on him and let him down.

Caiden, I wish we could've done more to help you. The week we got to spend with you was really fun. I think about you a lot, buddy. Wishing for all the good things for you in 2021!

Caiden's case # is ZH47085. If you think you're the family he's been waiting for, please don't hesitate to contact his team.

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