For every one couple waiting to adopt, there are over 17 children for adoption from foster care.
What’s the issue? Why do thousands of couples go without finding children for adoption, while even more kids go without ever finding a forever family? Why do so many children end up aging out of the system, often becoming homeless or incarcerated or falling prey to abusive relationships, addiction and sex trafficking?
For some kids, particularly older children in foster care, a forever family is out of reach simply because of the stigma assigned to them the moment they enter foster care. But what if there was a way to see the children behind the stigmas? What if a potential family could have a glimpse into that child’s heart? For one, thousands of kids would finally have adoption within their reach.
That’s where The Reel Hope Project steps in.
The Reel Hope Project
The Reel Hope Project’s goal is to present children to potential families for who they are as a person. By creating unique, two-minute video reels, The Reel Hope Project gives children for adoption from foster care a chance to say, “This is the real me.”
“Every kid we meet is so unique and diverse that they touch each of our staff’s hearts in a different way. There are some kids that you meet, and they just jump inside your heart.”
For The Reel Hope Project, connecting kids with forever families is a vital mission. The figures of children’s lives after aging out of foster care are heartbreaking:
- 70 percent of girls will have an unexpected pregnancy by 21.
- 60 percent of men will have a criminal record by 25.
- 80 percent of the children of those who aged out end up right back in the foster care system.
- 20 percent of kids aging out are instantly homeless.
- 60 percent of sex-trafficking victims were once in foster care.
- 80 percent experience significant mental health issues (compared to the general population’s 20 percent)
- Only one of two kids will have some form of employment by 24.
- Less than 3 percent of kids will earn a college degree at any point in their life.
- One in four kids will not graduate from high school or be able to pass their GED.
- One out of every two kids will develop a substance dependence.
They leave with no permanency and no one in their lives to help guide them. “This is why our work is so important,” says Ann Marie Root, Reel Hope’s Rocky Mountain Regional Lead, “Because, by helping these kids find family, you’re changing the world – one kid’s life at a time.”
“Before we even sit down for the interview, one of the things I’ve found that’s really important with these kids is so much of their life, they don’t know what’s going on,” says Ann Marie. “So, before we get started, I just say like, ‘hey, this is what’s going to happen today…’ They’re already so nervous about sitting in front of a camera and talking, and all those doubts are running through their mind. So, we want to calm their nerves.”
Working alongside the child’s team of social workers, Reel Hope dreams up a setting that will help this kid light up, be comfortable and showcase what gets them excited. Each child is so unique that it only fits that the locations be, too. The Reel Hope team has been all over the country, visiting trampoline parks, horse ranches, animal shelters, art museums, nature centers, music stores and more.
“From the video side, I’m seeing their passions come alive, and I want to represent them well,” Dan Luedtke, Reel Hope’s lead videographer, explains. “I want them to feel like when they see the video, for them to say, ‘that’s me.’ I want them to feel that proud moment when they see their best self come out.”
To paint a comprehensive picture of the kid’s values and passions, common questions for them include:
- What do you love doing?
- What makes being a kid so awesome?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What makes a good friend?
- What is important to you?
- What is family? (if it’s a sensitive subject because of trauma, they may frame the question as, “if an alien landed on earth and asked you what family is, what would you say?”)
The Amazing Similarity
The last question of what family means yields the most moving moments for the Reel Hope team and the reels they create. After making over 250 videos and meeting over 300 kids, Ann Marie has seen a thread of commonality in nearly every answer to this question – family is a place of unconditional love. “The only way that I can explain that is that God has put in every single one of us that love is meant to be unconditional. No matter how the kid explains it, it always comes down to unconditional love. We can see God’s amazing hand putting in these kids – who might have experienced the most horrific things in the world – to know still and desire that unconditional love. And that’s what a forever family can offer to them.”
The Impact on Children for Adoption
Not only are the kids offered a safe space to open up to the Reel Hope team when filming, but the whole experience gives them hope of finding their family.
Elijah was in foster care up to his teen years and was discouraged about his chances of finding his forever family. “I’d seen on TV and social media that teenagers’ chances of adoption were much lower than those of a toddler. It affected me a little, but I was also like, ‘maybe I could be that special one.” The Reel Hope Team didn’t give up hope, either. They traveled to Elijah’s city and made a reel for him. Within a few months, he had found his forever home. When talking about his adoptive parents, he says, “we connected in a way where people didn’t even know how or why we connected.”
Read more about teen adoption and find out if it’s the right fit for you.
Since its conception in 2016, the Reel Hope Project has made a significant impact on families and children in foster care! Through making reels, visiting churches and changing the narrative around foster care, they have:
- Doubled a teenager in foster care’s chances of adoption when they were made a reel
- Connected 800 families in beginning the foster care adoption process
- Helped 50 percent of children who were made reels find their forever family
How Can You Help Children for Adoption?
Reel hope began with a dream and relied on God for the rest – something we all can do and are, in fact, called to do.
Connect Your Church
At the heart of The Reel Hope Project is connecting families. One of the ways they do that is through showing reels to faith communities. But they need people like you to meet them halfway. Proactive people taking the extra step to invite Reel Hope to their church have helped families come together and changed a child’s life through a simple and easy act. That child belongs in a family, and that family could be at your church.
Spread the Truth About Children for Adoption
With all of the misinformation in our culture, Reel Hope has shown how important it is to fight back. Breaking stigmas sounds like a gradual effort, but a simple thing to you and me is ultimately life-changing for these kids without homes. We can join Reel Hope in breaking down barriers to families coming together. For example, a few myths Reel Hope spreads truth on are:
- MYTH #1: All adoption is expensive.
- TRUTH: The hefty price tag for private adoption doesn’t carry over to adoption from foster care. Most states have small or no adoption fees and provide additional financial support in different ways (monthly stipends, medical insurance, tax credits, free college tuition) after adoption.
- MYTH #2: It’s all or nothing.
- TRUTH: There are many ways to help adoptive families and children for adoption. You could also support them and their family through respite care, wrap-around care and preventative care.
- MYTH #3: Kids are in foster care because they’re bad.
- TRUTH: It’s true that some kids in foster care can act out. However, it’s not because they are “bad” kids. Most of the time, they’ve been through trauma that would be too heavy for even adults to handle. They are in foster care because they are the victims of other people’s life choices, not their own.